Bill to Establish a Fair and Inclusive Parole System in the State of Illinois
Written by the Stateville Debate Team
1) No person shall be denied the right to parole consideration. This includes all current and future incarcerated people.
a) Life without parole shall be excised from the possible sentences that can be given in Illinois.
b) Those currently serving life sentences who have served 11 years will be immediately seen by the paroling authority following the passing of this bill.
2) Every incarcerated person must serve either 25% of their sentence or the minimum sentence of the single most serious offense convicted of, before becoming eligible for parole – whichever comes first. Every incarcerated person automatically becomes eligible for parole after serving 11 years of their sentence.
a) Those sentenced as the principal offender under the multiple murder statute will become eligible after 20 years.
3) Every class of felony will be eligible for good sentence credits.
a) There will be extra time credit programs available for any person who has served active duty in the US Military.
4) A risk assessment instrument will be used to evaluate every person at their point of entry into the system in order to determine their risk factors and identify clearly those things which they need to change or accomplish in order to be released.
a) All people who are incarcerated at the time of this bill passing shall receive a risk assessment within the next 6 months.
b) At the passing of this bill, prior evidence of rehabilitative pursuits and program participation will be added to master files and considered at all parole hearings.
5) Any risk assessment instrument shall open its source code to a panel composed of representatives from ICJIA and SPAC for periodic review for racial bias, etc.
6) Within 60 days leading up to a person’s parole hearing, they will be again assessed with the same instrument. If they have surpassed the outlined goals from their initial assessment, they will be released at their hearing. If they have not, then the paroling authority will consider releasing them on parole from a clinical perspective.
7) For people who are not released onto parole, they will go back up for parole hearings every year until they have reached their maximum sentence as set by statute, plea bargain, or their sentencing judge.
8) Victims have the right to be present and involved in the initial outlining of the goals for an incarcerated person. They will have input into what must be achieved by an incarcerated person before they can be released. Though the bulk of the weight will be put on the risk assessment instrument for determining what an offender must accomplish before being released, all interested parties will have meaningful input before determining the final goals.
9) Once a person’s goals are set, they cannot be changed. They will be given to the incarcerated person in written form as soon as they are set. This is only superseded in the event that a demonstrable new problem – defined as any guilty finding in a major disciplinary infraction or new case – arises with an individual during their incarceration. In that case, the paroling authority has the discretion to go back and add goals that must be achieved before release. Any changes or additions must be given to the incarcerated person in writing.
10) Those who are denied parole have the right to know why. When a person is denied parole, they will receive a written explanation of the reason for denial. This will outline exactly which of an individual’s goals for release have been satisfactorily met and which have yet to be attained. It will include suggestions for how the unmet goals can be accomplished.
a) Every incarcerated person shall have full rights to challenge their denial of parole via an appeal. Any individual who submits an appeal will be seen by the entirety of the paroling authority within the next 90 days.
b) Any person who is denied upon appeal has the right to seek relief in the circuit court.
11) The IDOC has a duty to provide programs that are demanded for a person to be released. All people must have a legitimate opportunity to access the resources and programming that they need in order to meet their release goals.
a) Additionally, no person will be barred from programming because their anticipated release is not in the near future. People at any point in their sentence – whether they have reached their minimum sentence or have just been incarcerated – will have the right to engage in programming.
12) A panel of 5 from the paroling authority will hear each case. This panel of 5 will hold two different types of parole hearings. The first is for the eligible person who has passed the actuarial examination. In these cases, the paroling authority will simply set the terms of release. In the cases where the actuarial system has determined the person unfit for release, they will evaluate the eligible person from a clinical perspective and determine whether the person is ready to re-enter society.. If the majority of the panel of 5 agrees that an individual’s conditions are met, they will set the terms of release and parole the eligible person.
If any of a person’s goals are not met in the eyes of at least 3 of the 5 panel members, the paroling authority will outline explicitly in writing which goals were not met with a recommendation for how they can be met. They will also set the date for the next parole hearing at that time. The next date will not be set for more than 14 months in the future.
a) Juveniles and young adults (ages 18-24) will be given special consideration for parole in recognition of their diminished culpability.
b) People convicted under accountability theory will be given special consideration for parole in recognition of their diminished culpability.
c) Any other mitigating factor that is present in a person or their case that denotes diminished culpability (i.e. mental illness and other such things that are currently recognized in law) will be given special consideration for parole in recognition of their diminished culpability.
13) Parole decisions will be made with the recognition that justice has been served. Any person who has become eligible for parole has served the time necessary to satisfy the demands of justice. The only concern that the paroling panel is evaluating is the risk of recidivism. Paroling decisions will be made blindly with regard to the nature of the original crime.
a) All exceptions in current law will be eliminated. Specifically, the following will be excluded from this bill and will not constitute legitimate reasons for a person to be denied parole:
(i) there is a substantial risk that the eligible person will not conform to reasonable
conditions of parole or aftercare release; or
(ii) the eligible person’s release at that time would deprecate the seriousness of his or
Her offense or promote disrespect for the law; or
(iii) the eligible person’s release would have a substantially adverse effect on
14) In acknowledgement of the unequivocal importance of allowing incarcerated people a meaningful chance to maintain connections with loved ones during their incarceration, at the passing of this bill, each correctional facility will comprehensively evaluate how well they facilitate relationships between the people in their custody and their loved ones. Where problems are identified, they will be addressed and changed. This is of the utmost importance. One’s ability to conform to reasonable conditions of parole is in large part determined by the support they have on the outside. This will be recognized by correctional facilities and they will make necessary changes to visiting hours and procedures, phone call protocol and costs, letter writing, etc. in light of this recognition.
15) Any person who is over the age of 50 or who is significantly physically or mentally disabled will be considered for release regardless of any other factors – including whether their minimum sentence has been met.
17) Every incarcerated person shall hold the right to attend and testify at their parole hearings.
19) No person shall be penalized during the parole process for claiming innocence. This means that people who claim innocence shall, under no circumstance, have the mandate of “demonstrating remorse” as a requirement for parole.
20) No application will be necessary for someone to access parole. Once their parole eligibility has been reached, they will automatically be given a parole hearing date as well as legal representation for their hearing.
21) If any part of this bill is found unconstitutional, the rest shall survive.