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Illinois House approves criminal justice reform bill

[JURIST] The Illinois House of Representatives [official website] on Monday approved a new criminal justice reform bill [SB2872] by a vote of 83-26 during the latest meeting of the General Assembly. The bill would amend the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Act [text] to establish federally funded trauma recovery services for violent crime victims. The bill would also amend the Unified Code of Corrections [materials] to allow probation in certain drug cases and set improvement programs to help prisoners reduce their sentences. Lawmakers have pushed [AP report] the bill in an effort to reduce the state's prison population and restore communities affected by crime. The government must still address how the new initiatives will be funded in light of the state's budget issues. The bill will move to the Senate for a final vote on Tuesday.

The treatment of prisoners and prison reform [JURIST podcast] has been a matter of ongoing concern in the US. In June a Louisiana judge was sued [JURIST report] for essentially running a debtor's prison, sending poor defendants to jail when they cannot pay fines and charging them an "extension fee" to avoid jail time. In March the Department of Justice urged [JURIST report] state court systems to stop using procedural routines and hefty fines to profit off poor defendants. In February the Supreme Court of California ruled [JURIST report] that Governor Jerry Brown can put his plan to ease prison overcrowding on the ballot this November. Last January the US Supreme Court ruled that a landmark decision banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles should apply retroactively [JURIST report]. In August 2015 the Department of Justice reached a settlement [JURIST report] with Los Angeles prisons on mentally ill inmate care. In May 2015 Human Rights Watch released [JURIST report] a report stating that mentally disabled prisoners experience "unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force" at the hands of prison staff across the US. A federal court in February 2015 approved [JURIST report] a settlement agreement between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the American Civil Liberties Union in a class action lawsuit over the health care system within Arizona prisons. Also that month rights group Equal Justice Under Law filed suit [JURIST report] against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri, for their practice of jailing citizens who fail to pay debts owed to the city for minor offenses and traffic tickets.

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