Chesney Guest Column: Illinois should not become Petri Dish for Failed “Soft on Crime” Policies

In this photo taken Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, are booth injection stations at Safer Inside, a realistic model of a safe injection site in San Francisco. The model is an example of a supervised, indoor location where intravenous drug users can consume drugs in safer conditions and access treatment and recovery services. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Months before Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton cut to the front of line to be one of the first in Illinois to purchase legal marijuana on January 1st, plans were already in the works by the Pritzker Administration to extend their progressive criminal justice reform policies much further than many Illinoisans who voted for candidate Pritzker even realized.

Clearly on Pritzker’s legislative agenda this spring, as highlighted in his State of the State Speech in late January, cash bail reform is a top priority for the Democrat Party.  A Party refusing to admit to an internal ideology drifting further from center.  Under current Illinois law, those arrested must post 10% of their bail amount in order to re-secure their freedom while awaiting trial.  “Social Justice Warriors” led by “the squad” in DC are sparking radical pushes throughout the few remaining blue states in the country to allow all arrestees out of jail on their own recognizance; without having to post a monetary bond of any kind to secure their eventual appearance in court.

The societal impact of this type of policy change cannot be understated.  Catch-and-release-on-steroids, public safety is greatly threatened when there are seemingly no consequences to victimizing one’s neighbors.  Anyone involved in the court system will tell you that “Failure to Appear” for court dates is already gumming up court dockets, spending far too many scarce resources playing truancy officer for those avoiding the consequences of their bad decisions.

Has this been tried before?  Yes, it’s happening in New York right now.  Guess how it’s going?  Democrat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was just quoted this week as linking a recent crime surge in the City to the state’s controversial overhaul of bail laws.  He said, “there are some individuals who are just consistently, by their own actions, and by the proof of due process, consistently create[ing] a threat to their neighbors.”

This is the policy that Governor JB Pritzker and many Illinois Democrats want to bring to Illinois next.  But wait, there’s more.

Governor Pritzker recently set aside $4.1 million in taxpayer funds through a new executive order to fund four taxpayer-funded centers in which drug addicts may consume illegal narcotics under government supervision.  No, we are not talking about cannabis cafés here, but rather hard-drug cafés.  Is this really the best use of scarce taxpayer resources when we are so far in debt and not able to pay our current mental health and substance abuse treatment providers?  What kind of legal liability does that type of policy bring upon the taxpayers of Illinois?  If an addict shoots up under state supervision and then drives (or worse), are Illinois taxpayers liable?  Would you want one of these hard-drug cafés in your neighborhood?  This is far too questionable a use of our tax dollars.

In addition to the economic turmoil that has already been inflicted on Illinois, are we really ready for the social turmoil these policies propose to bring to our doorstep.  These coastal policies are not even playing well on the coasts; what makes the Governor think that will differ in the Heartland?