Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton will spearhead a new criminal justice initiative with the goal of both reforming prisons and creating more economic opportunities in the state. The new program will be called the Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative and will have three full-time staff working under Stratton.
Stratton said the initiative is still in its early phases, and did not point to any specific policy or legislative goals. But she said it would move the state from a strictly punitive approach to one that examines root causes.
“As we work to move our state forward, we will seek to create opportunity for all, especially communities which have suffered decades of disinvestment and whose voices often go unheard,” said Stratton.
In discussing the ties between equity, justice and opportunity, Stratton gave the example of the push to legalize recreational marijuana use.
“We will study and explore how people who have disproportionately been entangled in the justice system, due to low-level drug offenses, can now be the business owners, workers, and active participants within the new economy that the adult use of cannabis will create.”
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the executive order that created the initiative on Monday.
“For Illinois to truly lead on criminal justice reform, we must bring real and lasting economic opportunity to every corner of our state,” Pritzker said.
According to the executive order, the program will support research, pilot programs, provide data and analysis, and improve communication across agencies. The initiative plans to deliver a report on its goals within 90 days.
Shannon Heffernan covers criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow her at @Shannon_h.