What would HB 4109 do?

HB 4109 would take important steps to reverse mass incarceration in Illinois by ending the racially targeted system of Extended Term sentencing in Illinois.

What is Extended Term sentencing?

Extended Term sentencing is an overly punitive facet of Illinois' criminal code, which permits the courts to add long stretches of additional prison time onto already excessive sentences. In some cases Extended Terms can impose a fivefold increase on a person’s prison term.

Extended Terms drive mass incarceration

In recent decades, the practice of Extended Term sentencing has been a key driver of mass incarceration in Illinois. Even as the state adopts new legislative reforms to reduce the prison population, the upward trend of increasingly long prison sentences has undercut this progress. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of people serving prison terms longer than 10 years in Illinois increased by 14%.

Extended Term sentencing is racially biased

Moreover, by offering judges wide discretionary power to lengthen sentences on the basis of broadly defined factors, Extended Terms magnify racial bias in our court system.

When considering sentencing in a case, judges are authorized to order more stringent Extended Terms on the basis of a wide spectrum of loosely defined, and often subjective “aggravating” circumstances. This includes factors that have been historically interpreted and enforced in a racialized, anti-Black manner, such as “gang affiliation.” 

Since 2000 and 2015, the incarceration rate among Black men in the U.S. dropped by 24%. However, during this same period, the length of prison sentences for Black individuals has steadily increased at nearly twice the rate of white defendants.

Extended Terms undermine public safety

Excessive prison terms have also proven to have no positive impacts on crime deterrence or recidivism rates. To the contrary, overly punitive and racially biased sentencing policies have only served to further aggravate the symptoms of structural inequality that erode public safety.

By ending Extended Term sentencing practices, HB 4109 would promote racial equity and justice for our communities. WCRJ calls upon Illinois lawmakers to divest taxpayer dollars away from the destructive prison system and redirect public resources into programs that foster opportunity and liberation for all.

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