This Is OUTRAGEOUS: The Dramatic Shift In Legal Language That's Dividing Illinois

By Tommy Wilson | Thursday, 23 May 2024 12:00 PM
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In a move that has been met with a mixture of disbelief and criticism, Illinois has passed a bill that will replace the term "offender" with "justice-impacted individual" in the state's legal language.

The bill, known as Illinois House Bill 4409, was approved by both houses and is now awaiting the governor's approval.

The bill also includes a provision for the inclusion of representatives from the Illinois Department of Corrections on the Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) oversight board. The ARI program is designed to reduce crime and recidivism rates by offering community services as an alternative to incarceration. Supporters of the program argue that it has been successful in reducing crime and is only available to first-time offenders.

However, the bill has not been without its detractors. State Senator Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, has urged her colleagues to vote against the bill. "Over and over again, we keep changing the name of how we are referring to those who have entered into criminal activity and each time we make that change, each agency has to make that change on every one of their documents," Bryant said. She also pointed out the financial implications of these changes, stating that they have cost thousands of dollars.

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Republicans have also argued that the focus should not be on the "poor offender", but rather on the victims of violent crimes. State Senator Steve McClure, a Republican from Springfield, cited the case of Crosetti Brand, who was released by the Prisoner Review Board and subsequently killed 11-year-old Jayden Perkins. McClure argued that Brand was not a "justice-impacted individual", but an offender.

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During the debate on the bill, McClure pressed State Senator Robert Peters, the bill's sponsor, for a definition of "justice-impacted individual". Peters responded, "That means someone who has been impacted by the criminal justice system and is an individual. We [in this bill] don’t mess with anything in regards to the term ‘victim,’ we just change the word ‘offender’ to ‘justice-impacted individual.’"

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When McClure asked if the bill would also change the terminology for victims, Peters replied, "Sometimes we refer to victims as ‘survivors.’ Survivors of violent crime, sometimes survivors of domestic violence. So we use multiple terms for a lot of different people for a lot of different things."

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McClure then asked if the bill would change the term "victims" multiple times, to which Peters responded, "Well, we don’t mess with anything in terms of the word victim. We just changed offender to justice-impacted individual."

In addition to this controversial bill, Illinois legislators are also pushing for a change in terminology from "armed habitual criminal" to "persistent unlawful possession of a weapon." Senator Peters was a key supporter of the move to end cash bail in the state, a move that was hailed as a victory for criminals when Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to completely abolish cash bail.

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