0001raoul-resizedI am looking forward to working with the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to fix a broken system that is supposed to make Illinois safer but instead has produced overcrowded prisons, soaring costs and a large population cycling in and out of prison rather than getting the resources they need to leave crime behind.

Gov. Rauner has asked me to help lead this effort, and I'm honored to be working with an extremely knowledgeable and committed group to seize this bipartisan moment for change. A column I co-authored with the governor appeared in today's Sun Times:



In Springfield, we know there are going to be some tough fights ahead, but we believe the time is right for Illinois Democrats and Republicans to put aside partisan disagreements and fix our broken criminal justice system.

Nationally, leaders from the right and left, from Newt Gingrich to President Obama, agree that the U.S. needs to reduce the country's costly overreliance on incarceration.

Since the 1970s, the rate of incarceration in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. Our country has only 5 percent of the planet's population, but 25 percent of its prisoners held in the largest prison system the world has ever seen. This amounts to almost 2.3 million people incarcerated at an annual cost of more than $80 billion.

While Red and Blue states like Texas and New York have begun to take action by passing safe and effective criminal justice reforms, Illinois has lagged behind. As a result, our prison system has devolved into one of the most crowded in the country.

Read more here.



February 18, 2015


SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement in response to today's budget address:

Like the governor, I support a balanced budget that allows Illinois to become compassionate and competitive. But as co-chair of the conference committee that took on pension reform in 2013, I understood that we had embarked on a long road fraught with legal challenges and careful negotiations. It's a road we need to continue walking, in order to achieve constitutional, responsible pension reform and sustain funding for core state services; however, I have serious doubts about the governor's claim that we can save $2.2 billion this year by addressing pension liabilities.

I view this budget proposal as a starting point, and I look forward to working with the governor to accomplish pension reform the right way and while also maintaining access to health care, mental health services and other essential forms of assistance to those in greatest need.

The budget negotiations will not be easy, and they will likely be contentious. But today, we also find ourselves at a significant bipartisan moment – an opportunity to work together to finally reform our criminal justice system. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that warehousing criminals, without preparing them to rejoin society, is neither humane nor prudent. We agree that our sentencing laws are outmoded and aren't making our neighborhoods safer. We agree that too many Illinoisans – particularly young African-American males – have been left sitting in prison, at great cost to taxpayers, instead of getting the help they need to leave crime behind. As chair of the Senate's Restorative Justice Committee and a member of the governor's criminal justice reform task force, I look forward to working with the Rauner administration to accomplish these goals and make Illinois a safer, more compassionate and more productive state – one that invests in people, not prisons.


Budget address web

The day before the governor's budget address, I joined the crew of The Afternoon Shift on WBEZ to preview the state budget and discuss some of the challenges we face, including new concerns about pension reform.


State of the State react webI’ve been in the business of improving Illinois for many years now. We’ve abolished the death penalty, overhauled workers’ compensation, protected voting rights and expanded minority participation in state contracts. I welcome Gov. Rauner to the effort. I’m ready to work with anyone who comes to the table with reasonable ideas and a willingness to compromise.

I do want to see more specifics and a detailed blueprint of where the governor is proposing to lead us and how he plans to get there. The time for bashing Illinois and focusing on past problems is over; it's time to govern this great state and start shaping its future.

Gov. Rauner has reached out to me for input on our next steps in criminal justice reform, and I'm confident that this is an area where we can find common ground. I'm very pleased with initial indications of the Rauner administration's direction on this issue – both his statements today and the individuals he has chosen to advise him. I look forward to working with the governor on a more just, humane and fiscally responsible approach to public safety.

New law helps block those who commit felonies connected to public employment from collecting pensions

pensionsSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) announced that a measure he sponsored to make it harder for felons to receive public pensions became law today. Outraged by a pension board’s decision to allow convicted former Chicago police commander Jon Burge — who oversaw the torture of more than 100 suspects — to continue receiving a pension, Raoul worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to clarify that courts can intervene to stop such payouts.

Read more: Raoul: “It’s unconscionable that Jon Burge is receiving a pension”