(Springfield, IL) —The Illinois State Senate on Thursday approved legislation, 54-0, to create a commission that would examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on minority imprisonment rates or those of lower economic status, according to the bill’s chief sponsor, State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), left.
“No legislature sets out to make a law that disproportionately imprisons a particular racial community, but I believe that Illinois’ criminal justice laws unintentionally yield that result,” said Hunter,
Senate Bill 2476 creates the Commission to Study Disproportionate Justice Impact, and the panel must report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by December 31, 2009.
In 2005, African-Americans in Illinois were 9 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, ranking Illinois 14th worst in the nation—well above the national average of 5.6 times more likely.
Pam Rodriguez, executive vice president of TASC, says Illinois public policy, in large measure—not increases in crime rates—is driving the higher incarceration among minorities.
Rodriguez said the bill requires an analysis of the racial or ethnic impact of drug laws and will enable policy makers to better anticipate the effect of policy changes on the communities while maintaining a law’s deterrent affect.
The legislation now moves to the House where State Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) is the bill sponsor.