Illinois Passes Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

Among a band of criminal justice reform legislation, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the nation's first law prohibiting law enforcement from manipulating and lying to minors during interrogation. The ban will take effect beginning January 1, 2022.

Specifically, the law prohibits falsely promising leniency and falsely claiming that incriminating evidence exists against the suspect. These practices are not widely banned in the United States, and oftentimes lead to false confessions, especially among minors, who are two to three times as likely to give a false confession when compared to adults.

A then-17-year-old Terrill Swift alleges he was coerced by Chicago police into giving a false confession, and now states that this legislation could have saved his life. He was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a woman and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He spent 15.5 years in prison and was later exonerated through DNA evidence.

Alongside this bill, Pritzker also signed three other criminal justice reform laws Thursday, including one that would address mass incarceration through restorative justice practices, like mediation. These bills are not only significant to the state's history as a pioneer in criminal justice reform, but also to the history of the United States as a whole during a tumultuous time in the nation's political and social landscape.

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