WCRJ Introduces Bill to Abolish Racially Targeted Sentencing Enhancements

This week Representative Kambium Buckner, in partnership with the Workers Center for Racial Justice, introduced a momentous justice reform bill (HB 4109) which would abolish Illinois' racially targeted system of Extended Terms sentencing for every felony level, and allow individuals who are currently serving extended terms sentences to petition the courts for retroactive re-sentencing.

More information can be found at: https://www.center4racialjustice.org/extendedterms

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.

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%.

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. Between 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.

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.

"We have made great strides in Illinois to create a legal system that truly has justice as its core component,” said Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kambium Buckner. “In order to continue to do that work in the best way possible, we have to pursue sentencing reform as well. Sentencing policy must be shaped in a way that produces rational, fair, and effective outcomes for communities and individuals. Extended Terms have driven mass incarceration and left our communities less whole, less safe, and further from true justice.”

By abolishing the destructive system of Extended Term sentencing practices, HB 4109 would promote safety, justice, and liberation in Illinois.

For more information visit: https://www.center4racialjustice.org/extendedterms or contact Louisa Manske at Workers Center for Racial Justice by email at louisa@center4racialjustice.org or phone at 773.787.9762.


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