Illinois lawmakers pass criminal sentencing reform for minors

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield
Illinois State Capitol in Springfield(WEEK)
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 2:23 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - An Illinois bill allowing judges to use discernment during sentencing for victims of child sex trafficking heads to the governor’s desk.

The measure passed Wednesday with a 33-20 vote in the Senate after passing on March 22 in the House on a 67-40 vote.

House Bill 3414 would require a judge to consider several factors including a child’s involvement in the welfare system, history of domestic abuse or sexual exploitation and any mental health evaluations in the process of sentencing children convicted of a crime.

Illinois judges already consider age, maturity and potential for rehabilitation during sentencing hearings.

“There’s an understanding that youth require more support and more compassion than our system gives them,” Madeleine Behr, CAASE’s policy director, said. She shares that the legislation is also part of an ongoing movement toward racial justice in the criminal legal system.

“This is going to be really important for Black and brown girls in particular,” Behr said. A U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report from 2011 found that over a two-year period, victims of sex trafficking were disproportionately Black and disproportionately Hispanic.

The bill extends only if the minor is found guilty of a crime against someone who was previously convicted of child sex crimes.

Bill supporters say it is part of a nationwide movement to include protections in law for victims of child sex trafficking sometimes called “Sara’s Law” after Sara Kruzan, a survivor of child sex trafficking who killed her trafficker in 1995.

“We’re giving the courts extra opportunities to check and see: Was this victim brought into this situation because of some sort of trauma?” Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) stated.