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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms Pass House

Official portrait of State Representative Maurice West

Illinois lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system.  



The Illinois House followed the state Senate to approve a stripped down set of reforms from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. It includes changes to police certification, the use of force and the cash bail system. The bill now goes to Governor J.B. Pritzker.

The original package drew early opposition from members of law enforcement including Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana. 


“This isn’t against law enforcement, OK. It's against the community, protecting the community, the victims’ rights and to keep you safe, and have you know, be able to function in society, ” Caruana said.


The latest legislation would establish statewide standards for use of force. It would eventually require police to wear body cameras and a transition to ending the current cash bail system by 2023. 


An earlier iteration included eliminating qualified immunity for officers in situations where they violate rights set out by the Illinois Constitution. That provision has since been dropped.


State Representative Maurice West noted there are no provisions in the plan to “defund” police departments. The Rockford Democrat said the ultimate goal is to empower communities. 


  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.