CHICAGO – Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law today a comprehensive criminal justice reform package put forth by state Senator Elgie Sims, enacting changes in everything from how police are held accountable for the use of force to how courts impose bail and sentence convicts, and what rights all citizens, including detainees and prisoners, have with regard to their interactions with law enforcement officers.

“I’ve said from the start that these reforms should merely be the first steps we take to transform criminal justice in Illinois,” Sims said Monday after Pritzker signed House Bill 3653 at a ceremony at Chicago State University. “We must reimagine accountability. We must reimagine transparency. We must reimagine incarceration. These reforms are a beginning.”

Among provisions aimed at better police training and accountability are a ban on the use of chokeholds, increased training in crisis intervention, more mental health screening for officers, and requirements that officers submit data to an FBI database on the use of force. Whistleblower protections are increased, and the right to make phone calls and access personal contacts before police questioning is codified.

Detainees, prisoners, and all those who interact with police officers will have the expectation of prompt medical care while in custody, with special accommodations made for pregnant women. Charges of resisting arrest must cite a justification for the original arrest that was allegedly resisted against under the measure, as well. The purchase of military equipment like anti-materiel rifles and tanks by police departments would also be banned.

Courts will also see changes under the legislation, with the practice of cash bail ending, as well as an end to revoking drivers’ licenses for nonpayment of fines.

Formulated across months of public testimony in a number of Senate committee hearings,  the legislation came about in the months following the tragic death of George Floyd and the nationwide calls to address structural racism in the United States. Sims and other members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus led the effort to formulate a four-pronged policy approach to addressing the issue, of which the criminal justice reforms were one focus alongside health, education and economic access.

“This historic moment is the result of a monumental effort on the part of countless people, from those who testified during the 30 hours of public hearings on these issues, to those who have pushed for some of these reforms for years, and especially to the Illinoisans who signaled their support,” Sims said. “I thank them for lifting up their voices and never giving up, and I thank Gov. Pritzker for making these measures the law of the land. The journey continues.”

House Bill 3653 is effective immediately, though many provisions will phase in incrementally or be enacted after a period of transition over the coming years. Body cameras will become mandatory statewide by 2025, while the abolition of cash bail will take effect in January of 2023.

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