Proposed Illinois Weapons Law Has Huge Price Tag - FOX 18 Quad Cities News and Weather

Proposed Illinois Weapons Law Has Huge Price Tag

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Some Illinois lawmakers want to stiffen the penalties for people caught using dangerous weapons multiple times. Making a violation of the state's weapons laws would carry automatic prison time.

The state's prison system warns against such a law change.

The beefed-up bill would cause violators of the unlawful use of weapons law to face between three and ten years in prison automatically. The Corrections Department says if enacted, the law would cost $900 million dollars and put 3800 inmates in prison over ten years, money and space the state doesn't have.
"No, not currently, the way they're going we would have to look at some cuts in other places," says State Representative Mike Smiddy.

He says Illinois' prison system is bursting. 

The January population report shows all but one prison at 93% full. The state's own prison population estimates show the numbers are only supposed to get worse. Smiddy fears the state will repeat issues from the 80's.

"Getting staff killed and inmates killed, and I think we need to be more proactive than reactive on some of these measures," says Smiddy.
Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd says, "I don't think it's a bad policy move."

He says the bill targets repeated bad behavior.

"This bill is going after that sort of behavior, that if you're convicted again, and or the original penalties may be enhanced."
This is behavior the Quad Cities is not immune to. Rock Island County court records show 11 cases were filed here for unlawful weapons violations over the last year.

"There is a certain amount of violence, and violence in the street that happens with weapons so it would definitely be applicable here," says Boyd.

He says the automatic prison time is a drawback to the law. It prevents a judge from taking their own reasoning into account, and also ignores the high cost of sending people into prison, a cost Smiddy says lawmakers outside of Chicago need to pay attention to.

"They're the ones that will be affected by this. They're the ones with the prisons in their districts."

The weapons bill update will remain inactive for at least the next two weeks. Lawmakers don't head back to Springfield until April 8th.


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