Legislation backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police department to crack down on repeat gun felons could save the state $62 million over 10 years because the bill also would ease penalties for some drug crimes, reports the Chicago Tribune. The figure was calculated by the Illinois Department of Corrections at the request of senators as they weigh the legislation, which narrowly cleared a committee last week. The proposal would increase the sentencing guidelines for judges deciding punishment for repeat gun felons. Instead of a range of three to 14 years, judges would hand out sentences in the range of seven to 14 years. If judges wanted to depart from that guideline, they would have to explain why.
The measure incorporates changes aimed at lowering the state’s prison population, such as cutting penalties for people caught in possession of 100 grams or more of cocaine, heroin or fentanyl, relaxing the size of “drug free” zones from 1,000 to 500 feet, and requiring prosecutors to prove a connection between a drug crime and the protected area before that can be factored into toughening a sentence. Some Democrats said the tougher gun rules would target minority communities that would be better served with rehabilitation and jobs programs. The prisons agency said the $62 million would be saved as a result of 1,471 fewer offenders. It said the numbers are estimates because “the use of discretion when imposing longer sentences for firearms offenses is difficult to predict.”