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Author Topic: Will Mandatory Prison Time for Gun Possession Charges Make Chicago Safer?  (Read 9058 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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 Will Mandatory Prison Time for Gun Possession Charges Make Chicago Safer?
Posted: 03/22/2013 10:54 am

The debate over how to stop the bloodshed in Chicago headed south this week as Illinois lawmakers are taking up a bill that would put more people with guns behind bars -- for longer.

There is a logic behind HB 2265, which was introduced by state Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from west suburban Riverside. The argument: that felons, gang members and just about anyone convicted of carrying a loaded gun might think twice if they knew that they'd face mandatory time behind bars. And if they didn't, they'd do enough time -- a minimum of about 2.5 years -- and stay off the streets. Presumably, that would help solve Chicago's ongoing homicide crisis.

"What we have here in Chicago is a serious situation where the streets are not safe and the police are crying out for help," Zalewski said.

If this new "war on guns" is starting to sound a lot like the "war on drugs," well, that's because it is. In fact, it has the potential to be a lot more expensive than recently passed tough-on-crime drug laws, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court records.

Had the mandatory gun penalties under HB 2265 already been on the books, Illinois taxpayers would have been responsible for, at a minimum, more than $760 million in additional incarceration costs related to gun possession convictions between 2000 and 2011, our analysis has found. That's on top of the estimated $5.3 billion in incarceration costs stemming from all criminal cases originating in Chicago during that time.

The additional cost come from the fact that roughly six out of every 10 people convicted of one of these felony gun crimes in Cook County have been sentenced to time behind bars, our analysis shows. The other 10,130 defendants were sentenced to an alternative to prison like probation or boot camp -- which would no longer be an option under Zalewski's bill.

The Illinois Office of Budget and Management projects that the state would also have to spend an extra $263 million to build the prison space to accommodate the number of potential inmates.

"I'm not going to be disingenuous and suggest that the bill is not expensive," Zalewski told me. "But if we say we can't afford to protect public safety, we're not doing our job."

The measure is currently in the Illinois General Assembly's House Judiciary Committee. Zalewski said members of his caucus are debating over whether they could relax some current mandatory prison offenses to free up inmate space for these gun-related crimes and blunt the cost to taxpayers. Friday is the deadline to move the bill to the floor for a full vote.

Even if we could afford it, the question still remains: Would mandatory prison time be effective?

As I pondered this question, I was reminded of one of my old stories. A little more than two years ago, I dug into the court cases of youth who'd been convicted of adult felony gun crimes. I went into the project thinking that I'd be looking at some bad boys. It was a reasonable assumption, considering that young people have been involved in more than their fair share of Chicago's homicides, whose number leads the nation -- by plenty.

I pulled the records to examine each of those convictions and, as I read through them, I quickly realized that I needed to throw all of my assumptions out the window. We ended up calling the piece, "Without a Smoking Gun," with good reason.

Take Isaac Mobley's case. At 16, he was trying to be a typical teenager; he played on the football team, made respectable grades, was on a drill team. During his sophomore year, he transferred to an alternative high school because the trip to Hyde Park Academy High School was just too dangerous. Isaac decided to get gun to protect himself. But he was caught with it at school, convicted of a gun-related felony and sentenced to mandatory time behind bars as a result.

With what came across to me as a twinge of regret, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan said, "Mr. Mobley, it is just very unfortunate this stuff is happening." Gaughan sentenced him to a year behind bars.

"I know the streets are dangerous," Gaughan added. "You have to get that through your head, no matter how dangerous it is out there. You are going to be able to adapt without having the weapons. Otherwise, you are going to keep getting hurt."

Isaac was eventually released into the same violent South Deering neighborhood. Within a year, he was gunned down while walking to a birthday party. His mother told me that police chalked up his death to being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not an uncommon narrative.

Whether the stiffer sentence would have scared Isaac straight -- we will never know.

Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....

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Offline me

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Answer:  No!  It won't make us safer it'll just make prisons more crowded.  And the violence will continue regardless.

Offline DansDad

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Answer:  No!  It won't make us safer it'll just make prisons more crowded.  And the violence will continue regardless.

So there just suposed to close there eyes on these people that are not suposed to have guns and the people that do the straw purchass? I dont think so !

Offline me

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Answer:  No!  It won't make us safer it'll just make prisons more crowded.  And the violence will continue regardless.

So there just suposed to close there eyes on these people that are not suposed to have guns and the people that do the straw purchass? I dont think so !

I never said any one should close their eyes,...... My post was an "answer" to the title of the article.  Mandatory/More prison time won't make Chicago streets safer!  These people will do what they want to do regardless.  No one said anything about closing their eyes.... It will overcrowd the prisons even more....yes!  No doubt, 9 times out of 10 If they got caught with an illegal gun it's because they already committed another crime with it.

  But it will make nothing safer in Chicago.

Offline me

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Proposed Gun Bill Could Further Crowd Prisons

Chicago officials, stung by bloody episodes of violence, are seeking new legislation that would make it tougher on thugs packing guns. But their proposal to require more prison time for possessing illegal weapons is running into opposition based on concerns about prison overcrowding, costs and gun rights.

Experts say it could push thousands more convicts into a packed and financially pressed prison system, costing $100 million more per year. A prison-policy group says it's largely a Cook County problem that officials there are asking the rest of the state to shoulder. And gun-rights advocates fear it's a way for Chicago to discourage lawful gun possession in the city.

The measure, which won overwhelming support from a House committee days ago and awaits floor action, would stiffen penalties for several categories of unlawful use of weapons, including by felons or street-gang members. It would make probation less likely, in many cases imposing minimum prison sentences of three years behind bars, and require that offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez are pushing the measure, arguing that criminals are not spending enough time behind bars and are not deterred from carrying weapons.

A city regularly marred by violence has attracted added notoriety this year for the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in January, a week after the band majorette performed at President Barack Obama's inauguration, and the gang-related shooting earlier this month that killed 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins.

Many unlawful weapons crimes carry maximum sentences of 10 years. But police and prosecutors are hamstrung by heavy caseloads in courts where judges seeking to clear dockets put on pressure for plea bargains that quickly return bad guys to the street, said Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, in suburban Cook County, who is sponsoring the proposal.

From 2010 through 2012, an analysis by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council shows that of 7,000 arrests for unlawful use of weapon by a felon, for example, half were convicted. About three-quarters spent time in prison.

"Law enforcement is saying, it's our job to enforce those laws, and we're at a disadvantage because of what's happening in courtrooms, so we should act," Zalewski said. "I'm a firm believer in the deterrence effect of sentencing and this bill is meant to act as a deterrent as much as anything."

But it comes at a cost. The sentencing council — created to advise lawmakers about the impact of how they choose to punish crimes — reported that if the law had been in effect the past three years, it would have cost $400 million in added prison expenditures. Separately, the Department of Corrections estimates that the impact of the law in the next decade translates to $965 million extra.

The price tag includes $260 million in construction to make room for 3,860 more prisoners. The numbers come from the agency that currently houses 49,000 inmates in space designed for 33,000 but which is nonetheless closing five facilities, including two major prisons, because of a budget crisis.

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, an independent group monitoring prisons, contends studies show longer sentences do not deter crime. So it makes no sense, he said, to pack more inmates into Illinois penitentiaries. There's no money for programs to reduce recidivism and overcrowding tempers rehabilitation by putting first-time offenders in contact with more seasoned cons, from whom they "are learning to commit better crimes," Maki said.

"Even if you buy the fact this is something we should do, it still raises the question, how are we going to pay for this? This is not pocket change," Maki said. "Illinois is out of money, so when it comes to spending $1 billion on a crime-prevention strategy, we need to think about what's the best use of that money."
So-called UUW crimes are not endemic throughout Illinois, Maki said, "so why should Illinois be on the hook" for a Cook County problem that existing law, applied properly, can solve?

Zalewski doesn't deny the additional cost in money and prison beds. But safer streets are worth it, he said.

"Six-month-olds and children being victims of gun violence is a compelling policy problem that we should address," Zalewski said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Elaine Nekritz, another suburban Cook County Democrat, is unconvinced the legislation addresses the more important problem of reducing recidivism by ex-cons serving longer sentences. But it's tough for a politician to oppose legislation that a future opponent could use in a campaign attack accusing him or her of being soft on crime.

Zalewski's measure won Judiciary Committee approval 14-2.

The two "no" votes came from Nekritz and Rep. Jim Sacia, a Republican from Pecatonica. He views the proposal as an attempt by Chicago authorities to use "a runaway gang problem" to restrict gun rights for everyone.

Lawmakers this session also are addressing a federal court ruling in December that gave Illinois until early June to join the 49 other states in allowing the public possession of concealed firearms.

Gun-rights supporters such as Sacia are perplexed by what they see as Chicago's insistence on lumping law-flaunting gang members in with those who follow the rules.

Zalewski amended his legislation to make exceptions for a person who usually has a valid Firearm Owners Identification card, but whose card had expired by fewer than 90 days when he was found with a gun. Todd Vandermyde, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said those provisions don't go far enough to protect law-abiding go owners. And he said once concealed-carry becomes law, permit violations of the sort would be regulatory offenses, not crimes. Nonetheless, he said, a permit infraction, for example, could still lead to a serious charge such as aggravated unlawful use of weapon.

"If they step outside the line just a little bit," Vandermyde said, "they're going to be slapped with an aggravated UUW and face mandatory three years in jail."


Offline pmilver

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I was thinking to myself, "When is it going to get through these idiots' heads that longer sentences don't decrease crime!".  Then I realized that it is all a show for politicians to get re-elected.  They can say that they supported longer sentences to protect the public and make the streets safer.  It is all a big game and a sham.   :wc4:

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