Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reducing Crime

While it may not be an issue that grabs the attention of the public, it should be.
After nearly two years of closed-door study, a privately funded task force is sending a proposed rewrite of the state's criminal laws to Illinois legislators that would prune the massive code by about one-third.

A 1,100-page bill emanating from the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform Commission would simplify the statutes, cut many archaic references and make other corrections, panel members said. The criminal code was last overhauled in 1961, and lawmakers and governors have been tacking on amendments ever since.
There is one provision of the commission's findings that needs some serious scrutiny however, and that is this:
To curb future add-ons, the commission is expected to recommend the creation of an independent, advisory body that would evaluate criminal legislation for the General Assembly.
While this is a well-intentioned provision that is aimed at applying a throttle to the annual and ubiquitous flurry of 'get tough on crime' bills, I am not sure that having an external panel injected into the legislative process is a necessary or worthwhile precedent. Between legislators, staff, bar associations, interest groups, and the like, there should exist sufficient checkpoints to corral imprudent legislation.

But as my friend and colleague Rep. Bob Molaro points out, there is often a strong driving factor on the other side of legislative rationality.

Molaro, who chairs the House Judiciary II Committee, conceded that lawmakers tend to be prolific sponsors of crime bills. But he said they often pursue such measures with good intentions, on behalf of a constituent who has been victimized.

"Their heart's in the right place," the Chicago Democrat said. He added: "What am I going to say, it makes for a bad press release? It makes for a good press release."

The CLEAR Commission is comprised of some excellent members who have put in countless hours in order to restore some cohesiveness and consistency to our behemoth of a criminal code. I look forward to reviewing, and hopefully implementing, their final bill.

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