Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) announced the launch of its Resentencing Initiative. The initiative utilizes a new state law to review cases and identify incarcerated persons with sentences that may be eligible for resentencing in the interest of justice. Details on criteria for potential resentencing can be found here.
Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 2129 (SB 2129) in July of 2021, allowing prosecutors, at their discretion, to motion to resentence incarcerated persons whose original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice. The sentencing court then makes the ultimate decision of whether a person should be resentenced. The law took effect on January 1, 2022, and was championed by Representative Kelly Cassidy in the House and Senator Robert Peters in the Senate. Illinois is the fourth state following California, Washington, and Oregon to enact Prosecutor-Initiated Resentencing laws.
In partnership with the nonprofit organization For The People, the CCSAO will analyze prison data to identify potential cases and review the incarcerated person’s personal and criminal background, including their medical records, prison disciplinary history, and records of rehabilitation while incarcerated (e.g., educational achievements, work histories, and programming). After conducting a holistic and thorough review, the CCSAO will determine whether to motion to resentence an incarcerated person to a lesser term of imprisonment and/or potential release. The CCSAO is also working closely with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a community-based organization that is developing strong reentry plans and ensuring ample resources and support for people who may potentially be released under the Resentencing Initiative. Additionally, Winston & Strawn LLP is providing pro bono legal services for individuals identified for resentencing.
“There is a notion that somehow, the belief in justice, fairness, and equity should only be considered by the defense attorneys and not prosecutors. The impact of injustice on these individuals, by actors including prosecutors, deserves to be remedied,” said State’s Kim Attorney Foxx. “Through the Resentencing Initiative, prosecutors can begin addressing the fact that many Black and brown people are still incarcerated today under failed policies of the past, even though they have been rehabilitated and pose little threat to public safety.”
The impacts of mass incarceration and harsh sentencing practices of the past are far-reaching. From an economic standpoint, incarcerating people for long periods of time after they cease to pose threats to public safety takes away tax dollars that could be used for healthcare, housing, education, and infrastructure. In 2015, Illinois spent over $1.5 billion in prison expenditures—or $33,507 per inmate. By comparison, in 2016, Illinois spent approximately $29.2 million on public education—or $14,180 per student.
“In 2018, we conceptualized and helped pass the nation’s first Prosecutor-Initiated Resentencing law in California,” said Hillary Blout, Executive Director and Founder of For The People. “After years of working closely with elected prosecutors to lead the law’s implementation, we have seen incredible success stories across our state and beyond. We are thrilled to partner with Cook County to support their efforts to look back at unjust, excessive sentences. We are deeply grateful for the CCSAO’s leadership, which will enable families and communities to be reunited across Illinois.”
“Striving to improve prevailing systems of justice is at the very heart of our firm’s pro bono practice,” said Winston & Strawn Senior Pro Bono Counsel Gregory A. McConnell. “This unprecedented initiative offers hope that those systems can achieve balance and fairness. We are pleased to facilitate the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ active and effective utilization of this remarkable new tool of justice reform,” he added.
The CCSAO believes in a victim-centered approach to this work and will continue to ensure that victims’ rights are upheld and that their voices are considered throughout the resentencing process. Victims will be notified at different steps of the resentencing process and will be given the opportunity to submit a written or oral statement at the hearing with their input and recommendation. Under the new law, victims of crime will have every right that they are currently afforded under the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, which are the same rights they are given throughout trial and sentencing.
The Resentencing Initiative builds on State’s Attorney Foxx’s commitment to enact criminal justice reforms that are based on science, data, and the evolution of justice. Her vision for success is not measured by convictions. She believes in doing what’s right—fighting for the best, fairest outcomes, whatever form that takes. In the interest of public safety and justice, the Foxx administration is providing conviction relief for cannabis cases, supporting criminal justice reform like the historic legislation banning deceptive interrogation practices for juveniles, vacating wrongful convictions, and maintaining a nearly 90% approval rate for felony cases.