Even acknowledging the change in dialogue for both parties about criminal justice reform, many states still have a long way to go. Illinois is at a crossroads, poised to follow either states such as California whose overcrowded swollen prisons pose both a safety and financial burden to its citizens, or states like Texas and New York that have safely decreased their numbers of offenders. Hopefully Illinois will choose the option to lower the government expansion of crime, finding a more cost-effective way to divert low-level non-violent offenders from becoming high-risk criminals. The beginnings of change have been seen in the state and need to be continued.
After decades of using incarceration as the country’s primary response to crime, leading Republicans and Democrats are embracing safe, fair, and cost-effective prison reform.
As Illinois prepares to elect its next governor, voters should ask the candidates where they stand on this issue and what their vision and goals are for the state’s crowded and under-resourced $1.3-billion prison system.
Like all states, Illinois’ prison population has grown exponentially over the past 40 years, going from around 6,000 inmates in 1974 to 49,000 today, despite the fact that the system was designed to hold only 32,000.
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