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Prison watchdog group opposes boosting gun violation sentences

John Maki executive director John Howard AssociatiIllinois

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association of Illinois

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Updated: November 16, 2013 6:12AM

A prison watchdog group on Monday announced its opposition to legislation that would boost sentences for illegal gun possession.

The John Howard Association said the proposed bill backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez would “radically change current law, which allows judges to use their discretion” and employ alternatives to prison, such as the Cook County Jail’s boot camp.

John Maki, executive director of the group, questioned arguments that raising the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal gun possession would deter more people from carrying firearms illegally.

“Who would you rather meet on the streets of Chicago? A recently released parolee who has spent three mandatory years in Illinois’ crowded and under-resourced prison system or an offender who has completed an intensive evidence-based alternative sentencing program that is proven to reduce recidivism?” Maki wrote.

A bill pending in the General Assembly would raise the mandatory minimum prison term for aggravated unlawful use of a gun — meaning illegal gun possession — from one year to three and require offenders to serve 85 percent of the sentences, up from 50 percent now.

On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the results of a University of Chicago Crime Lab that showed gun possession offenders were four times more likely to be re-arrested on murder charges and nearly nine times more likely to be locked up for shootings than other felons.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told the newspaper that the data bolstered the argument for stiffer gun possession sentencing.


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