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Lawmakers Mull Freeing Some Elderly Inmates

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More than a hundred people today packed a hearing of the Illinois House Prison Reform Committee in downtown Chicago. The hearing focused on a bill that could enable some elderly inmates to apply for sentence reduction.

Under the legislation, inmates who’ve reached their 50th birthday and served 25 consecutive years could petition the court that sentenced them. The prisoners would have to show that they’re rehabilitated.

The hearing’s speakers included Reverend Paul Ford of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland.

FORD: People can and do change.

The annual Illinois Department of Corrections budget is more than a billion dollars. Supporters of the legislation say too much of that goes toward geriatric care.

But the bill’s opponents point out that inmates can already appeal for clemency from the governor. Joe Birkett is DuPage County State’s Attorney.

BIRKETT: The bill if passed would undermine confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole -- the closure that not only the victims and their families feel but the community.

The bill’s sponsors include 8 of the Illinois House’s 118 members.

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