Rich Miller: Want to reduce violent crime in Chicago? Cut prison sentences
The columnist and blogger at Capitol Fax discusses in his Crain's column one solution to the issues of crime & violence in Chicago neighborhoods and it's somewhat surprising:
A brazen afternoon armed robbery of passengers on an Orange Line el train. A hundred people shot in a week. Thirty people shot in 13 hours.BTW, here's another wrinkle in this:
Can part of the answer really be to lower some state criminal penalties? Yep, and the reasons are pretty simple.
We're not locking up enough truly dangerous people for long enough. Doing so would put a monumental strain on our already horribly crowded prison system. Short of finding state money to build and staff more prisons (and there isn't any), we've got to clear some room for the truly bad guys.
The state inmate population has risen 10 percent over the past decade, to 48,819 at the end of June from 44,379 at the end of June 2004. Gov. Pat Quinn asked for a $100 million increase in the Department of Corrections' budget this year, but because of disagreement in Springfield over the income tax increase, the department's budget has remained flat at about $1.2 billion.
The idea that we're locking up too many people for too long is starting to catch on with voters, too. A July 15 Rasmussen Results LLC poll found that a plurality of likely voters, 44 percent, agree that there are too many Americans in prison. Only 31 percent disagree.
Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel accomplished the impossible, working out a deal with the National Rifle Association on a bill in the Illinois General Assembly to toughen penalties for gun-related crimes. But the bill unexpectedly was killed by the House Black Caucus, which used a parliamentary procedure to block passage.Read the whole thing. And let Rich Miller and us at the blog know what you think!
Since most gun crimes happen in districts represented by Black Caucus members, you'd think they'd be the last people to stand in the way of the bill.
But African-American legislators also represent an outsized group of folks caught up in the state's harsh criminal penalties. They were sick and tired of penalty enhancement bills and wanted reform. They also pointed to the huge cost of the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside. Coming up with that money most certainly meant cuts to programs that black legislators hold dear.