On Monday, October 28th, Illinois’ House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider a dangerous bill that would undermine safety, justice and liberation for young people across the state. HB 333 would implement harsh mandatory minimum sentences for minors charged with weapon possession and prohibit prosecutors from pursuing more humane and effective means of case resolution, such as conditional probation and restorative justice diversion programs. If enacted, this measure would fortify Illinois’ destructive and racially targeted youth prison pipeline, in which juvenile detention serves as an entry point into an inexorable cycle of adult incarceration.
In Illinois, mandatory minimum sentences have proved counterproductive in deterring crime. In fewer than two decades, the state’s General Assembly increased penalties for weapon possession six times, and local police and prosecutors targeted their enforcement efforts on communities of color with laser precision. Illinois’ draconian sentencing practices have not resulted in decreased crime rates, but rather prompted a threefold increase in the number of Illinoisans incarcerated for weapons charges. The collateral impacts on economic stability in majority-black neighborhoods have only served to further exacerbate racialized inequality and erode public safety.
Moreover, Illinois’ juvenile justice system is a pernicious agent of racialized mass incarceration statewide. Black children, who are grossly overrepresented in the juvenile detention system, are routinely funneled through the state’s youth facilities into adult prison.
In Illinois more equitable alternatives to youth incarceration have served to foster public safety. In recent years, as the state adopted more humane juvenile practices, such as case diversion and restorative justice programs, the youth detention rate fell by 62%. During this time, Illinois witnessed a steady statewide decrease in juvenile crime rates.
Join WCRJ as we take a stand against locking up our children and undermining the safety of our communities.
Your voice is critical to advancing racial justice and liberation in Illinois.