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Op-ed Placement

Bradley Ad on Wrong Side of Policy, Politics

BY Jason Pye and Sakira Cook
08/26/2016
Originally Published in The State Journal-Register by Jason Pye and Sakira Cook on 8/26/16.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, is running an attack ad against his opponent that might have seemed smart politics. In 1985. The reality is his ad is wrong policy ... and wrong politics.

Bradley attacks his opponent on an issue that has support from conservatives, progressives, business associations, veterans' groups, civil rights advocates, liberty lovers and faith leaders: smart justice reform. It's important to examine Bradley's claims, especially in light of what is happening in Illinois.

It's no secret the state is in the midst of a huge budget crisis, and state government is in dire need of reforms that will make agencies and services more efficient and effective. Gov. Bruce Rauner rightly saw the unsustainable justice system as the best place to start. The state's corrections system is racking up an annual bill of $1.4 billion, up almost $200 million in the past eight years. Prisons are overcrowded at 150 percent capacity, disproportionately impacting African-Americans who make up over 57 percent of the prison population, and over 40 percent of those leaving state prisons are returning within three years.

Rauner formed the bipartisan Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to make recommendations that will safely reduce the state's prison population and improve outcomes. These reforms have proven successful in states across the country. Texas implemented reforms in 2007, closed three prisons, saved the state more than $2 billion, and now the Lone Star state enjoys its lowest crime rate since the 1960s. Connecticut's series of justice reforms have produced the lowest prison population in two decades, fostered stronger probation and reentry practices, and resulted in falling crime rates across the state. Georgia is on its third round of reforms, and these efforts have already lowered crime rates and avoided the need for 5,000 new prison beds that would have cost taxpayers $264 million.