Prioritizing assistance and care for victims of violent crime is the intent of legislation (Senate Bill 2872) sponsored by State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles) that passed the General Assembly on January 10.
“The dramatic increase in violent crime, particularly in the city of Chicago, has forced all levels of law enforcement and government to reevaluate our approach to criminal activity and identify ways we can make our communities safer places to live and raise a family,” said McConnaughay. “Empowering the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to more strategically approach how they help the victims of violent crime is just one way lawmakers can assist victims of crime, while also hopefully reducing the incidents of crime moving forward.”
The measure provides for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to conduct strategic planning and provide technical assistance to implement trauma recovery services for violent crime victims in communities experiencing high-levels of violent crime. The program was modeled after a similar, successful program in San Francisco, and will be financed using federal funds.
McConnaughay noted that it’s been found that many convicted criminals were once victims of crime, themselves. She said this fact is even more compelling when you realize that Illinois is no stranger to violent crimes. The city of Chicago alone faced a 58 percent increase in its homicide rate from 2015 to 2016, and one in three Illinoisans report having been the victim of crime in the last 10 years, with more than 60 percent of those surveyed having been the victims of a violent crime.
“In addition to the emotional and financial toll on victims, survivors of crime can fall into depression, develop substance dependency issues, experience financial problems and it’s shown that those most vulnerable to crime are the most likely to experience victimization in the future,” said McConnaughay. “If we’re going to address the issue of criminal justice in Illinois, then we need to also focus on helping victims of crime and violence.”
Senate Bill 2872 contained a number of elements recommended by Governor Bruce Rauner’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which was established to reduce the state’s prison population and make significant changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system. McConnaughay was a member of the Commission, which also released its final report on January 10.
“It’s not as one-dimensional as simply saying we want to reduce the state’s prison population. I want to see individuals leaving our correctional facilities and becoming productive, lawfully-abiding members of society who make a meaningful, positive impact in the lives of those around them,” McConnaughay said. “Giving judges and the law enforcement community more discretion to make decisions on a case-by-case basis is just one way lawmakers can place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, while ensuring public safety and accountability.”
The final report of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform can be found online at http://www.icjia.org/cjreform2015/