On January 13, a bill focusing on comprehensive criminal justice reform passed the Illinois House and Senate. This comes months after the Illinois Senate Criminal Law and Special Committee on Public Safety held its first joint hearing on police use of force. During that hearing, Samuel V. Jones, a professor of law and associate dean at UIC John Marshall Law School, testified in support of criminal justice reform.
The bill, HB 3653, advances criminal justice reform relative to police oversight, use of force, pre-trial procedures and other critically important areas. On January 10, Jones, along with Attorney General Kwame Raoul and other officials and experts, testified again in support of reform as advocates on both sides engaged in a heated debate in the state’s capitol. Governor Pritzker has now signed the bill.
Jones, a former Marine and U.S. Army Military Police Captain, conducted training for the Department of Homeland Security and Illinois judges; he is a legal expert regarding police accountability and practices. During the recent hearings, he discussed a range of topics, including the importance of Illinois police officers having a duty to intervene in certain circumstances and the need for greater protection for police officers from retaliation. He also testified in great detail regarding racial disparities relative to police use of force and provided data regarding the disproportionate number of African Americans who have been stopped, tased or shot by police in relations to others. He also pointed to low conviction rates for police misconduct and the sizeable monetary costs of police violence in Illinois.
State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices, remarked, “The reforms laid out in HB 3653 are crucial to building a more equitable Illinois. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. Ending cash bail, holding law enforcement responsible for their actions, addressing officer wellness and mental health, and every other provision in this bill work to fundamentally restructure how we think about the criminal justice system and how it serves the communities across Illinois. We were delighted to have Professor Jones address our colleagues in the legislature and receive questions from the floor and appreciate his expertise throughout this process. His commitment to criminal justice reform was crucial to this work. The long process of passing this pillar, and all of the ILBC pillars for that matter, has been a labor of love.”
Jones plans to continue working with Illinois legislators on various measures. When asked about his passion for reform, Jones has been unwavering in his belief in the preservation of all life as the highest of ideals. “We must be tireless in our commitment to reform so that it is sufficient both in scope and conception. I remain convinced that increased police accountability will foster trust and confidence between our police officers and the communities they serve and ultimately save lives and money across all spectrums.”