A state measure awaiting floor action in the House looking to add more prison time and penalties to the possession of illegal weapons, especially by felons and gang members, is facing opposition. Some experts say it will lead to more prison overcrowding and cost about $100 million more per year, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
bill, HB 2265, sponsored by State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside),
has the backing of Chicago officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, and calls for a minimum
prison sentence of three years for an unlawful weapons possession, with
the requirement that 85 percent of an offender’s sentence be served. It
would also make probation less likely.
Those pushing for the measure say offenders aren’t spending enough time behind bars for their crime,
citing heavy court caseloads that often lead judges to press for plea
bargains in order to clear their dockets. This means offenders are back onto
the street sooner than the crime’s maximum sentence of 10 years.
enforcement is saying, it’s our job to enforce those laws, and we’re at
a disadvantage because of what’s happening in courtrooms, so we should
act,” Zalewski told the AP. “I’m a firm believer in the deterrence effect of sentencing and this bill is meant to act as a deterrent as much as anything.”
The measure recently passed the Judiciary Committee by a 14-2 vote.
reports that the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimates
that if the bill had been enacted three years ago, it would have already
cost about $400 million in added prison expenditures.
In a decade’s time,
the measure could cost the prison system an additional $965 million, including construction to
accommodate room for the surge in inmates, according to a Department of
Zalewski acknowledged the costs associated with the measure, but added that, “Six month-olds and children being victims of gun violence is a compelling policy problem that we should address.”
related news, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said a few days ago that the
Cook County Jail is already set to be jammed packed by this summer.
spike in arrests, the length of time inmates spend in the jail while they await
their case to go through the system, and a decrease in inmates who use
home electronic monitoring have contributed to the high number of