|Career criminal Larry Tolliver will get 50% off his sentence for this attack on a 74-year-old woman.|
|Tolliver | Illinois Dept Of Corrections|
Tolliver has been sentenced to a combined 111 years in prison for 19 different felony convictions since 1981. Despite that, the state has once again decided that he deserves the standard privilege of a 50% sentence reduction that most Illinois inmates receive.
We often refer to Illinois as a "criminal-friendly" state and Tolliver's case is a shining example of just how cushy the Land of Lincoln can be, even for repeated violent offenders.
Now, there are movements afoot to make Cook County an even better place to steal, rob, and cheat your way through life.
For example, shoplifters in Cook County should not face felony charges unless the value of their stolen merchandise exceeds $1,000 or the offender has more than 10 prior felony convictions, says newly-elected Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.
Prosecutors in Foxx’s office were told last month to follow those internal guidelines even though state law calls sets the felony shoplifting threshold at $500.
Foxx’s move is one of several changes proposed or being carried out by various state and local offices that some people see as being friendly to criminals and others see as being progressive and balanced.
Among other recent initiatives that have been announced are a proposal by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to “eliminate” the cash bond system; a plan to reduce Illinois’ inmate population by 25% over the next decade; and a move by three Chicago aldermen to allow individuals with minor criminal convictions to become city police officers.
Get Out of JailThanks to new administrative rules, the Cook County Jail population has fallen to its lowest level in 25 years, allowing authorities to tear down three cell blocks at the sprawling detention center at 26th Street and California Avenue.
“Jails are for violent people,” Dart said “We are always going to have places for them here. But for the non-violent people, for the mentally ill, they don’t need to be here.”
No Bond?Dart last month recommended that Cook County do away with its cash bond system, which he says is unfair to lower-income defendants.
The bail system has been used for centuries to ensure that accused individuals have a financial incentive to show up for their day in court. But Dart and others think too many of the wrong people are caught up in an unfair system.
“People are in here because they committed an insignificant crime and can't pay an insignificant bond because they're poor,” Dart said. Ideally, “if you're dangerous, you [should be] in jail. If you're not dangerous, you [should be] at home. The fact that you can't come up with $100 is irrelevant."
Dart wants a no-cash bond system that would use “intensive background checks” to determine if arrestees are “dangerous to society.” Only those found to be dangerous would be held in jail under Dart’s plan.
Other Illinois sheriffs have expressed reservations about Dart’s proposal, which would require action by the state’s legislature.
Knox County (IL) Sheriff Captain Dave Caslin questions Dart’s proposal.
“It’s almost like they’re talking about a probation review before someone is put on probation,” Caslin said. “Over the years, I know there have been times where a burglar will commit burglaries while he’s on bond. I know there are times where people arrested for drug offenses, while they’re out on bond, (they) commit (more) drug offenses … People, after they serve their time, likely will go do the same thing again.”
In Sangamon County, Sheriff Wes Barr pointed out that Illinois judges already have discretion in setting bond.
“If the judge wants to let somebody out of jail and put them on an electronic monitoring system, they already have the ability to do that. From my thoughts, the cash bond system that is currently in place is appropriate.”
Cons To Cops?Three Chicago aldermen recently announced plans to hold hearings to determine if the Chicago Police Department should hire people who have been convicted of “minor drug and criminal offenses.”
Aldermen Ed Burke, George Cardenas, and Roderick Sawyer want to reduce restrictions that “can often prevent minorities from successfully applying for positions in law enforcement."
”It does not seem right to allow a minor offense to follow someone for the rest of their life,” Cardenas said, “especially when they can demonstrate that the incident has no bearing on the life that they lead today.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed to be open to the idea.
“If somebody did something when they were 16 or 17, that doesn't become an entire impossibility, as long as it's not serious, to joining a police department," he said.
But Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo was quick to raise concerns about more liberal hiring standards in a time of increased scrutiny of police work.
“The Chicago Police Department should be looking at raising standards, not lowering them,” Angelo said.
“When a police officer walks into a drug house with a search warrant, and there’s mass amounts of currency there, that’s a situation where your moral and ethical compass has got to be pointed in the right direction. You have to ensure you’re not tempted by that. Same thing with drug use,” Angelo said.
Angelo also referred to the proposals put forth by Foxx and Dart.
“They don’t want to give anybody any bond anymore. They want to have people who have stolen $1,000 worth of property charged with a felony, only if it’s their 10th offense,” he said. “So they’re minimizing criminal activity…and now, it’s almost as if [they want those offenders] into the police academy.”
Emptying PrisonsIllinois Governor Bruce Rauner is also proposing changes to the state’s criminal justice system, with a goal of reducing the state’s prison population by 25% before the year 2025.
Illinois inmates (even Larry Tolliver) already enjoy an automatic 50% reduction in their sentences when they report to prison. Their sentences are further reduced by day-for-day credits for time they spent in local jails awaiting the outcome of their cases.
Now, a state commission hopes to reduce prison population further by encouraging the Department of Corrections to use non-prison alternatives such as electronic monitoring for short sentences. They also want to slash minimum sentences for nearly all felonies.
The population at Illinois prisons dropped to 44,680 as of June, down more than 5% since July 2015. Prison inmate counts are down nearly 10% since 2014. The state’s system was designed to handle 32,000 prisoners.
But critics of the state system say the focus should be on how much the state’s prison system has grown. Illinois housed just 6,000 inmates in 1974.
Results or Wrong-headed?According to FBI data, crime in Illinois has fallen 50% since 1974.
The state recorded 627 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 1974, but only 383 violent crimes per 100,000 residents last year.
Overall, the Illinois crime index has fallen from 5,184 cases per 100,000 to 2,372 cases per 100,000 over the past 40 years, according to the federal agency.