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Legislation aims to crack down on boot-camp bungles

Updated: December 24, 2013 6:11AM

Sen. Bill Brady on Friday said he planned to introduce legislation to prevent violent felons from being sentenced to the boot camp at Cook County Jail.

Brady (R-Bloomington) was responding to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that found hundreds of violent offenders have been wrongly sent to the boot camp since 2006.

“Boot camp is an option reserved specifically for nonviolent offenders,” said Brady, a candidate for governor, in a statement. “My legislation will make sure that we are vigilant about only allowing nonviolent offenders to be sentenced to boot camp.”

Brady’s proposal would amend the state law that created boot camp in 1996. Cook County judges, the state’s attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office would have to certify in writing that a person sentenced to boot camp is a nonviolent offender and meets eligibility requirements.

A Sun-Times story Friday spotlighted the case of a 19-year-old armed robber sentenced to the boot camp program in 2007 — in violation of the law. About 16 months after he completed the four-month program, he allegedly killed a college student on the South Side.

The suspect, Denzel Simons, is awaiting trial on a murder charge. Diane Cannon, the judge who sentenced Simons to boot camp, told the Sun-Times, “I am sure I have given sentences that were not the letter of the law,” adding: “You got me.”

Inmates in the boot camp go to school, learn vocational skills and are subjected to military-style discipline. The goal is to keep them from committing new crimes after their release.

Art Bilek, executive vice president of the nonprofit Chicago Crime Commission, said it was “outrageous” that violent offenders are in the program.

“This practice should be brought to a halt,” said Bilek, who hailed Brady’s proposed bill.

“I hope they bring this up in the early days of the new session [of the General Assembly in late January] and we can see an end to polluting boot camp with vicious offenders,” Bilek said

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