(The Center Square) – Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow people sentenced to life in prison in Illinois to be eligible to seek parole after serving 25 years.
State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, announced House Bill 2045, which would allow a person serving a life sentence to become eligible for parole.
The bill says that a person who has reached the age of at least 55 and has served at least 25 consecutive years in prison shall be eligible to submit a petition to the Prisoner Review Board seeking parole.
“We believe it is going to increase public safety,” Slaughter said. “The efforts will indeed help citizens become more productive, positive citizens.”
Slaughter is a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, the group of Illinois lawmakers responsible for the controversial criminal justice reform package known as the SAFE-T Act.
A lawsuit challenging the cashless bail portion of the package is currently being considered by the Illinois Supreme Court.
State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, has introduced a similar measure with House Bill 3373, which would allow prisoners serving a life sentence to earn parole, which she said is good policy.
“It saves money, it looks at people based on their merit and what they have done while they were incarcerated, and it gives them an opportunity to have some hope,” Ammons said.
State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said that sometimes there are more important issues than saving money.
“Absolutely we should be about saving money, but I don’t think dollars are more important than people’s lives,” Plummer told The Center Square. “I think that we have to make sure that we protect our communities.”
Plummer said the state has let far too many people who have committed heinous crimes out of prison without going through a thorough vetting process and the impact is being felt throughout Illinois communities.
“Hopefully we can sit down with all parties and talk through really the dire impact these directions can have on innocent people around Illinois,” Plummer said.
Meanwhile, Republican members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee issued a statement regarding the recent appointment of Donald Shelton as the chair of the Prisoner Review Board, replacing Edith Crigler.
“Over the last several years, [Gov. J.B. Pritzker] has transformed the Prisoner Review Board to fit his weak-on-crime agenda and has allowed several of his appointees to go unvetted and unconfirmed for multiple years,” the group said in their statement Tuesday.
“Fortunately, through persistent pressure by Senate Republicans, changes have started to take place following the bipartisan movement in the Senate to deny several controversial Pritzker appointees. While there is still a long way to go to reform this vital agency, we are encouraged by the recent change and will continue to advocate for a Prisoner Review Board that is just, transparent, puts the victims and their families first, and above all, protects Illinois families and communities,” the statement said.
Shelton will make $103,000 a year as chairman. Other members of the Prisoner Review Board make more than $92,300 a year.
Members may not hold any other form of paid employment per state statute.
Greg Bishop contributed to this report.