Rauner signs Ammons bill to cut inmates' phone costs

Rauner signs Ammons bill to cut inmates' phone costs

CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday signed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, that aims to reduce phone costs for people incarcerated in Illinois prisons.

The bill reduces the rate that the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice can contract for telephone providers.

The bill was one of five Rauner signed that he said would help reform Illinois' criminal justice system to focus on rehabilitation to reduce recidivism and help low-level offenders find a brighter future.

"We need to approach our criminal justice system with more compassion," said Rauner. "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."

HB 6200 will cap the cost of phone calls placed by inmates in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice. The state receives about $12 million each year from those commissions.

Under the legislation, starting Jan. 1, 2018, calls would be no more than 7 cents a minute, or 23 cents a minute for international calls.

Rauner signed the bill at North Lawndale Adult Transition Center in Chicago.

Ammons was present for the bill-signing.

"I am thrilled the governor sees the value of this legislation and is embracing the bipartisan support it has by signing it into law," Ammons said. "The Family Connections bill is more than just financial relief for families trying to maintain a relationship with their loved ones who are incarcerated. It is an example of the impact the Illinois General Assembly can have on criminal justice reform when we work together and with the support and cooperation of the governor's office."

The head of the state Department of Corrections, John Baldwin, said that Rauner "set out to make Illinois a more compassionate state and he is making good on that initiative. Today's bills will help ensure that we are giving young men and women a second chance at life. Instead of focusing on the past, we are attempting to rehabilitate people who have been incarcerated and create opportunities for low-level offenders to build a future."

Other bills signed Monday include:

— SB 3164 requires review of a presentencing report, as well as an explanation of why incarceration is appropriate for offenders with no prior probation sentences or prison convictions, prior to sentencing. Last year, nearly 60 percent of new prison admissions for Class 3 or 4 felonies had no prior convictions for violent crimes, the governor's office said.

— HB 6291 amends the Juvenile Court Act to change the minimum probation period for a youth-adjudicated delinquent. The purpose of the bill is to help bring Illinois in line with other states and the latest research by reducing mandatory minimum lengths of probation and treating low-level offenses with treatment.

— 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. The previous law stated that park districts could not employ any person convicted of the specified drug offenses. It also scales back prohibitions on employment for convictions of public indecency to Class 4 felonies.