Behavioral Health Advocates Hail Illinois’ Selection for National Criminal Justice Reform Project

(Springfield, IL) –  Illinois’ selection as one of just three states out of 20 applicants for participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP) has drawn applause from a top Illinois behavioral advocate group.

Chosen by the National Criminal Justice Association Center for Justice Planning and the National Governors Association, the project offers technical assistance to states in the planning and implementation of data-driven, evidence-based practices in the areas of pretrial reform, re-entry and offender recidivism, mental health and substance abuse, reducing incarceration, and information sharing.

“Illinois has been a leader on criminal justice reform in the last several years, and the state’s participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project advances that effort,” said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Since behavioral health care is a linchpin of any effort to fix our criminal justice system, we look forward, as key stakeholders, to be involved in the national reform effort.”

Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Executive Director John Maki, who announced Illinois’ selection on December 21, warmly welcomed the state’s participation.

“We are honored to be a part of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project,” said Maki. “This partnership will be invaluable as Illinois works to fully integrate evidence-based practices that ensure a fair and cost-effective criminal justice system and improve public safety.”

Through the project and with the assistance of an advisory board of national experts, the Governor Bruce Rauner’s office and ICJIA will lead teams of policymakers and key stakeholders on a strategic planning process for advancing reforms within the state’s executive branch.

“Protecting the public’s safety is of paramount importance to Governor Rauner,” said Rodger Heaton, Public Safety Director. “The state’s selection for this grant reflects the many efforts underway to improve our public safety system in sustainable, measurable ways.”

Lindsey said that he “looks forward” for CBHA’s opportunity to share “evidence-based best practices” CJIA to help push executive branch reforms.

“Our community behavioral health providers are working on ground every day implementing evidence-based best practices, and we look forward to working with CJIA and Director Maki wherever we may be helpful,” Lindsey said.

In 2015, the Rauner created the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, an initiative to reduce Illinois’ incarcerated population by 25 percent by 2025.

Lindsey also noted that in August 2015, before the November 2015 release of the infamous Laquan McDonald shooting video, Rauner signed the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act, Senate Bill 1304, sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), a measure that contains a requirement for police body cameras, training and attention for dealing with individuals suffering from mental health illness.

“The Illinois debate occurred before the MacDonald video became public,” Lindsey said. “I think Senator Raoul’s legislation puts Illinois ahead of a curve on the topic.”

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