Bill Changes Criminal ‘Offenders’ to ‘Justice-Impacted Individuals’ in Illinois Program

Evan Poellinger | May 28, 2024
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The Illinois State Legislature is attempting to pass a law that would prompt authorities to cease referring to criminals as “offenders” in one of the state’s correctional programs and to begin referring to them as “justice-impacted individuals.”

House Bill 4409, in addition to adding members to the Adult Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board, Illinois Department of Human Services, the Sangamon and Cook County Adult Probation Departments, and the Adult Redeploy Illinois system, is intended to amend the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009 to change how members of the Adult Redeploy Illinois program are referred to.

Of course, despite passing both houses of the state legislature, the bill did not come without controversy. State Sen. Steve McClure (R) observed, “change this, change that, the only thing you don’t want to change is the behavior of criminals.”

State Sen. Terri Bryant (R) echoed similar sentiments, noting that “over and over again, we keep changing the name of how we are referring to those who have entered into criminal activity and each time we make that change, each agency has to make that change on every one of their documents.” “[R]ight now, in the Department of Corrections, there's multiple changes that have been made and it’s costing thousands and thousands of dollars just to do a name change. Why is it necessary to make the name change?” Bryant added.

Of course, proponents of the bill to destigmatize criminals argue that such a change is necessary to help members of the program get a fresh start. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) declared that “carrying a label of offender for life does not seem appropriate for a system in which we intend to return people to full participation in society.”

Other Democratic lawmakers encouraged their colleagues to overlook the change in terminology, State Sen. Robert Peters (D) offered, “this is good public safety policy. I know we’re getting hung up on a term, but I don’t want to lose sight that we are adding the department of corrections to this bill.”

After passing both houses, the bill was sent to the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who will likely sign it into law.

In the midst of their arguments for the bill, it seems that Illinois Democrats care a great deal about the feelings of the justice-impacted, but little about the victims impacted by the aforementioned justice-impacted.