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Gov. Pritzker, Lake County officials discuss criminal justice bill in Waukegan

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks in Waukegan during a press conference on Wednesday regarding the criminal justice reform bill. | Provided Photo.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker appeared Wednesday in Waukegan alongside Lake County officials to tout his newly-signed criminal justice and police reform bill, saying that it will help bring a “fairer and safer legal system” for Illinois.

Pritzker spoke during a 12:30 p.m. Wednesday press briefing at the Waukegan Park District Field House about House Bill 3653, which he signed into law on February 22.

Pritzker appeared alongside Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, lawmakers and Lake County officials, including Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham and Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart.

“In America, we say that we want fairness in our justice system. But in this nation, pre-trial detention has been far more about how poor you are than how dangerous you are,” Pritzker said.

“Thanks to the patients and persistence of advocates, activists and public servants, Illinois will dismantle that dynamic when this law takes effect so that we can be sure those who are violent and dangerous, those who pose a threat to society, are detained,” he added.

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Stratton said that Illinois is making it “abundantly clear that justice can no longer be denied” and that Black and Brown communities can no longer wait.

She said those communities are often over-policed, over-incarcerated and under-resourced. “We deserve safe communities. We deserve abundant opportunities. And, yes, we deserve justice…and we deserve it…now. This is a step in the right direction,” Stratton said.

House Bill 3653 — formerly House Bill 163 — passed by a 60-50 vote on January 13. The Senate passed the bill by a 32-23 vote.

It will change use-of-force guidelines, require body cameras for every police department in the state, end cash bail, and strip collective bargaining rights relating to discipline from police unions.

Parts of the bill will go into effect in July while other parts, like eliminating cash bail, will go into effect in 2023.

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The legislation, which is the work of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, faced opposition from law enforcement groups and Republican lawmakers.

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim (left), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (middle) and Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg (right).

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg and McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim both issued contrasting statements in response to the massive bill shortly after it was signed into law.

Prim said in a statement that the legislation package contains sweeping changes and “will have a measurable impact on law enforcement and the public.”

Prim said his department is already in compliance with many of the mandates and will continue to study with a team of attorneys and sheriff leadership.

Prim also added that the law was passed through the legislature “under the cover of darkness, with no ability for additional insight.”

“During my 38 years of service in law enforcement, I have never seen such a blatant move to obstruct an entire, honorable profession that will end up hurting law-abiding citizens the most. I desire the passing of trailer bills that will provide clarity, direction, and will work to repair the consequences of this bill,” he said in the statement.

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Idleburg issued a contrasting statement to Lake and McHenry County Scanner and said that the new law contains “some overdue justice reforms.”

Lake County legislators were able to change some of the language during the construction of the bill that would have had a negative impact on law enforcement, Idleburg said.

“I look forward to continue working with our legislators to fine-tune portions of this law to ensure law enforcement can continue to effectively keep our community safe, while protecting the rights of all we serve and increasing the public’s trust,” he said.