News Local/State

Ammons-Sponsored Prison Phonecall Bill Signed Into Law


State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) says legislation cutting the cost of domestic phone calls from Illinois prisoners is one way lawmakers can take on criminal justice reform. She sponsored the measure signed by Governor Bruce Rauner Monday. It caps those calls at 7-cents a minute, cutting the rate by more than half. 

Ammons says the commission the Illinois Department of Corrections made from those calls was once as high as 87-percent, but has now been cut 'significantly' with the new law.

The legislation, HB 6200, is one of five related bills signed by Rauner on Monday. 

There, Ammons told the story of a woman who couldn’t reach out to her parents while they were incarcerated.

“And during that stay, she was unable to connect with them, because her grandmother, who struggled to raise the two children who were left behind, could not afford the phone calls, that cost them an enormous amount, the choice was food or phone," she said. "We know that in order for people to truly gain their lives back, and contribute to society, they have to have certain things when they get out. They have to have family connections that keep them connected to family that will be their support system when they get home."

The law takes effect in January, and was signed by the governor at North Lawndale Adult Transition Center in Chicago.

“We need to approach our criminal justice system with more compassion,” said Rauner, in a press release. “I want those who did something wrong to face punishment, but we must make sure that the punishment fits the crime. We need to explore new avenues so that we’re balancing punishment with rehabilitation and not needlessly tearing families and lives apart.”

Ammons says the measure took over a decade to see through, crediting family adocates that work with prison reform groups, as well as national advocates at the Center for Media Justice.

All the bills take effect in January 2017. The other bills signed by Rauner Monday are as follows-

-SB 3164, which requires review of a pre-sentencing report, as well as an explanation of why incarceration is appropriate for offenders with no prior probation sentences or prison convictions prior to sentencing.

- HB 6291 amends the Juvenile Court Act to change the minimum probation period for a youth adjudicated delinquent.

- HB 5017 allows a juvenile to immediately petition the court for expungement when he or she is charged with an offense that is dismissed without a finding of delinquency. Under current law, the statute only allows for a petition of expungement when the youth has reached the age of 18.

- SB 3005 amends the Park District Code to provide that a park district shall not knowingly employ a person who has been convicted of specified drug offenses until seven years following the end of a sentence imposed including periods of supervision or probation.