Illinois, Cook County Criminal Justice Officials to Testify to ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions
CHICAGO, March 21, 2006 — Leaders of the Cook County criminal courts, prosecutor’s and defender’s offices will testify at an American Bar Association public hearing on criminal sentencing and recidivism March 31 in Chicago.
Former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson and Professor Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University Law School, co-chairs of the ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions, will lead the hearing at ABA headquarters, 321 N. Clark St., to consider policies and practices that divert low level offenders from prison and help them find employment.
The first panel of witnesses will be Paul P. Biebel Jr., presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Criminal Division; Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine; Cook County Public Defender Edwin A. Burnette; Deanne E. Benos, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Corrections; and Jorge Montes, chair of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
Additional panels throughout the day will detail similar initiatives in Oregon, Michigan and Kansas aimed at reducing recidivism and enhancing public safety.
The ABA commission was formed to respond to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s challenge to the legal profession to consider what happens to people after they are convicted of crimes and imprisoned. He said, “Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long,” noting that 25 percent of the world’s prisoners are in the United States. The commission is focusing on alternative sentencing strategies that offer minor offenders a chance to avoid prison and conviction records and programs that neutralize the effect of criminal convictions by removing barriers to employment.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.