State ‘dismantling’ justice system

March 16, 2019 GMT

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County officials say “ridiculous” state laws are weakening penalties for criminals and traffic violators.

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ken McCabe said this week that the county had nearly 5,500 outstanding warrants in January — a number he expected to double in a year because of the new bail law.

“We have a parole problem in Illinois. If you pay attention, these high-profile murders are committed by people on parole that they let out and we have to catch again,” McCabe told the county board’s criminal justice committee. “A couple of summers ago, we had a rash of burglaries. All three of those individuals (arrested) were on parole. They told us if they had to shoot someone, they would do it.”

McCabe said that when officers pick up people on warrants for failure to appear in court, they are often just let out again. He accused legislators of “racing forward to dismantle the criminal justice system,” saying they should consult law enforcement before they pass bills.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “(Lawmakers) think they’re saving money by releasing these people. Some of these people don’t belong on the street. When they’re locked up, they’re not burglarizing your home or shooting someone.”

Circuit Clerk Sandra Cianci told the committee that the county should expect a reduction in revenue from her department. Starting July 1, a new state law called the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act takes effect that will let low-income people get full or partial waivers for fines and fees.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the legislation last year. Local lawmakers were split on the measure, with Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, against and Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, for.

As a result of the bill, Cianci said, “Our fees will be waived a lot.”

County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, criticized the new law.

“There’s no incentivizing driving at the speed limit besides points off your license if you don’t make a certain income,” he said. “On the face of it, it’s ridiculous.”

He asked the circuit clerk’s office to do a study to see how the law would affect its budget. He offered the help of the county administration office.

“It’s work, but it’s valuable work, so we know what’s going to come out of the general fund. We’re just out of the hole, but that will put us back down,” Wheeler said.

Another bill in Springfield could also hurt the circuit clerk’s budget, Cianci said. It would require that offenders pay restitution before fees and fines. Restitution is compensation to victims for money they lost because of crimes.

The bill is “a horrible thing for us,” the clerk said. “We collect fees to operate the court”

At the same time, she said,” I understand getting restitution because (victims) don’t get it often and If they do, it’s one of the last things that get paid.”