Illinois Politicians Seek to Change ‘Offender’ to ‘Justice-Impacted Individual’

The wording change would apply to the state’s ‘Adult Redeploy Illinois’ program, which replaces prison time with rehab for some offenders.
Illinois Politicians Seek to Change ‘Offender’ to ‘Justice-Impacted Individual’
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker speaks before U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy, at the Old Post Office in Chicago, Illinois, on June 28, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

Illinois lawmakers have approved a measure that would modify the language in state law to stop identifying certain people who have committed a crime as offenders.

On May 21, the Illinois Senate passed HB 4409. Introduced by Democrat lawmakers, the bill amends the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, replacing the term “offenders” with “justice-impacted individuals” in the state’s “Adult Redeploy Illinois” (ARI) program. The ARI initiative seeks to divert some offenders from prison to rehabilitation centers.

During a Senate hearing, Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), who sponsored the legislation, defined a justice-impacted individual as someone who has been “impacted by the criminal justice system and is an individual.”

Regarding the usage, he noted that “sometimes we refer to victims as survivors, [like] survivors of violent crime, sometimes survivors of domestic violence. So, we use multiple terms for a lot of different people for a lot of different things.”

State Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) pointed out that there has been a “tremendous rush” in the Illinois Senate to remove “accurate language to reflect criminal behavior, to take away crimes“ and penalties for such people. There is also a rush to take away “all accountability for people that commit crimes,” he said.

State Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) criticized the measure, noting that lawmakers seem to keep changing how people conducting criminal activity are officially referred. Every time such changes are made, each government agency “has to make that change on every one of their documents.”

In the state’s Department of Corrections, there are several such changes that have been made, she said, noting that a name change costs the government money.

“So I would ask, why is it necessary to make the name change? Even if the rest of the bill was okay, which I don’t think that it is, but even if the rest of it was okay, the name changes may seem like a small thing, but it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to do that.”

The bill was passed by the House last month. With both chambers having passed HB 4409, the bill now moves to the desk of Illinois’s Democrat Governor J. B. Pritzker.

The passage of HB 4409 has received harsh criticism online. “Playing the Name Change Game Again. Criminals are now Justice Impacted Individuals. Your IL Dem Legislators are America’s worst,” radio host Jeanne Ives said in a May 22 X post.
Jennifer Korte, a former candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives, in an X post on May 21 accused the bill of using “watered down terminology to make an offender feel better about their crime.”
Democrat politician Paul Vallas noted that changing the term offender to justice-impacted individual explains “all you need to know about the current mindset of state & local leaders who increasingly see criminals as victims & police as criminals & who do not consider the needs of victims a priority.”

ARI Program

The ARI program aims to reduce the prison population in Illinois by diverting individuals from serving their prison sentences to programs seeking to reintegrate them into the community, according to a December 2022 report by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

The program provides funding and technical assistance to local communities to establish treatments to address “social determinants of crime and incarceration.”

In fiscal year 2021, over 2,000 individuals were served by 25 ARI network sites operating more than 50 diversion programs in 43 counties, according to the report.

“From the program’s start in 2011 through the end of state fiscal year (SFY) 2021, more than 7,400 people were diverted from prison by ARI sites to community-based supervision (probation) and services addressing their criminogenic needs with the goal to reduce recidivism,” it said. Recidivism refers to the tendency for an offender to go back to previous criminal behavior.

HB 4409 makes certain additional provisions for ARI, including the creation of an Adult Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board to oversee, offer guidance, and develop an administrative structure for the program.

The bill requires that the board include members from the Department of Corrections, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Sangamon and Cook County Adult Probation departments. It also necessitates the inclusion of two members who have firsthand experience with the ARI system as participants.

The new bill pushed by Democrats is the latest in a series of measures aiming to modify the justice system and how criminals are treated.

A controversial law, the SAFE-T Act, was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, in Illinois. But on Dec. 31, 2022, the state Supreme Court placed on hold a portion of the bill that eliminated cash bail for certain crimes.

State Sen. John Curran (R-Ill.) pointed out that SAFE-T’s cashless bail raises the risk of releasing dangerous criminals back into the streets. Multiple law enforcement officials also warned about the cashless bail provision.

The Act eventually came into effect in September 2023, eliminating cash bail requirements in certain instances.

Instead of cash bail, defendants in the state now undergo pretrial detention hearings, which assess whether they will be detained and the conditions under which they can be released.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.