Springfield, IL â€“ Legislation creating the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force was recently signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn.Â The measure, authored by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter, is in response to recommendations proposed earlier this year by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission (DJIS) after an investigation found the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans for low-level, non-violent drug crimes compared to their Caucasian counterparts.Â
The task force created by Senate Bill 2271 will determine the best method to collect and analyze racial and ethnic identity data from arrests in order to create a Racial and Ethnic Impact Statement for Illinoisâ€™ criminal laws.Â This impact statement would ensure that criminal laws in our state will not have a disproportionate impact towards certain ethnic groups.
â€œI want to thank Governor Quinn and the DJIS Commission who have given their support to rectifying the drastic negative impact the â€œwar on drugsâ€ has had on the African-American population,â€ Hunter said.Â â€œThere are communities in our state that are being failed on every level and we are unfortunately throwing money at the problem by increasing law enforcement and prison sentences as opposed to rehabilitating individuals who have a drug problem.Â Rehabilitation will lead to employed, tax-paying members of society, not repeat criminals who become a drain on the tax payers.â€
The Commission was established in 2008 through legislation championed by Hunter to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups.Â The Commission released a report in January that revealed that African Americans charged with low-level drug crimes were sent to prison at a rate almost five times greater than whites in 2005, the most recent year for which the comprehensive data set was available.
At the end of its investigation, the Commission suggested five recommendations to address the concern of disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans to be implemented through legislation.Â Those recommendations were to institute racial & ethnic impact statements, expand sentencing alternatives, reduce barriers to employment, use drug forfeiture funds to address the problem and fund alternatives to incarceration.