Democrat believes Illinois Republicans have “bad stench of racism” since SAFE-T Act became law

Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) points at House Republicans during a heated debate on April...
Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) points at House Republicans during a heated debate on April 9, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 3:50 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Political debate over the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus SAFE-T Act has been heated since the plan became law last year. House Democrats passed a plan with changes to the original criminal justice reforms early Saturday morning, just hours after introducing the bill. Republicans say the legislation didn’t go far enough, and Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) leveled allegations of racism against GOP members.

Senate Bill 2364 clarifies portions of the SAFE-T Act that became frequent talking points for Republicans. However, the debate escalated quickly.

“As various components of the SAFE-T Act become effective, it is absolutely critical that our state embrace refinements and important clarifications so we can optimize the impact and the implementation of these significant initiatives,” Slaughter said Saturday.

This proposal could allow police to make custodial arrests when people are a threat to their community. It also gives officers the ability to monitor a person’s location while they are on electronic release and clarifies state attorneys can deny movement periods for anyone charged with forceable felonies.

Republicans are concerned that anyone in pretrial home confinement with or without electronic monitoring must be provided two periods of movement time each week under this plan.

“The state has to file a petition and go to court and prove by clear and convincing evidence - a heightened legal standard - that the person should lose their electronic monitoring after committing a forceable felony while being on electronic monitoring. Ridiculous,” said Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis).

Democrats say this would give people the opportunity to get groceries, do laundry, or go to a doctor’s appointment. Law enforcement monitoring those individuals would still define how long individuals could leave their homes.

The bill could also create a commission to provide recommendations on how to implement the pretrial fairness portion of the SAFE-T act, which eliminates cash bail on Jan. 1. That commission’s initial report would be submitted to lawmakers and Gov. JB Pritzker on Nov. 15. Commission members would also provide an annual report on pretrial detention starting Dec. 31, 2023.

Windhorst is a former State’s Attorney for Massac County. The House GOP allowed Windhorst to have the sole debate with Slaughter due to his background in the criminal justice field. Of course, the Republican attempts to repeal the SAFE-T Act gained no Democratic support.

“There is no change, absolutely no change, to the detainable offenses in the original SAFE-T Act,” Windhorst said. “Serious violent felons will be released after 48 hours after arrest.”

Meanwhile, Slaughter said Democrats are fed up with Republicans complaining about and politicizing the SAFE-T Act when major portions of the law haven’t gone into effect yet.

“We can smell it. It’s a bad stench of racism coming from that side of the aisle,” Slaughter said while pointing at Republicans.

Slaughter said his GOP colleagues don’t deserve respect from Democrats. House Republicans yelled several times for decorum, but Democratic leaders didn’t stop Slaughter from speaking.

“Safety, safety now - we want safety now,” Windhorst said. “This bill doesn’t give us safety now. Vote no.”

Senate Bill 2364 pushes back the start date for mandatory supervised release to March 1, 2023. The SAFE-T Act initially called for that to begin on July 1, 2022. Slaughter also noted that the Pretrial Practices Data Oversight Board will start collecting quarterly, county-level information on Jan. 1, 2024. Although, the bill’s language calls for the data collection to start on July 1, 2023.

The legislation passed out of the House on a 64-45 vote. However, the Senate couldn’t take action on the plan before the session ended. Senate Democrats could try to move the bill during a special session or the veto session dates this fall.

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