The Naperville Park District Board finds issues with the new Illinois criminal justice bill and urges a veto


Emily Shiff

The Naperville Park District Board calls Governor J.B. Pritzker to veto the new Criminal Justice Bill that reforms cash bail, the prison system, and the police force.

The Naperville Park District Board called for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto statewide criminal justice reforms last Thursday. Illinois lawmakers passed the criminal justice bill to reshape the criminal justice system on Jan. 13. The Naperville Park District Board continues to wait for Pritzker and voice their opinions on the matter. My opinion? The criminal justice bill offers reform into the system where justice is supposed to be served; therefore, vetoing the criminal justice bill will leave negative impacts much larger than the police force.

Illinois legislatures passed the bill during a lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly. A lame-duck session is when Congress meets after a November election and before the beginning of the new Congress. This would cause some lawmakers who return for this session to not be in the next Congress. The Criminal Justice Bill offers reforms for cash bail, the prison system, victim compensation, and much more which the Naperville Park Board tackled during board meetings debating the veto of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Many key reforms caught my eye, but one really stood out to me during the Naperville Park Board news: the abolition of cash bail. As one of the most significant changes in the legislation, cash bail is defined in which the court determines an amount of money that a person has to pay to secure their release from detention. The cash amount serves as collateral to ensure that the defendant appears in court for their trial. This may pose a problem because, to me, it is not an even playing field. Yes, it is very situational, but not everyone has the money to bail, especially if they are a victim of failed justice. Other situations I see are those who are deserving of a sentence but have the money to bail themselves out, which is unfair. I believe everyone deserves a fair trial, and the risk should be in court instead of evading with money.

In an article from WBEZChicago, “cash bail was never about public safety,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said. “For far too many people, their assessment was based not on their risk but on the amount that they could afford to pay. Eliminating cash bail makes this about risk and not about poverty.”

The abolition of cash bail in Illinois is in the works and will be enforced by the year 2023.

The Naperville Park Board of Commissions holds regular meetings discussing the “matters of the [Naperville] public.” The board held a virtual meeting to discuss their reasons and pitch a resolution to the bill. Their main point to the issue was because of the effect they will have on the park district’s police officers and others across the state. Community members voiced their concerns as well alongside the commissioners throughout the meeting.

“[The bill] is not against police,” resident Antonia Harlan said. “We all need police, and we all recognize that, but there is a population that is suffering. Brown and Black people are disproportionately killed by the police for reasons that are unjustified, and I think this bill introduces parts that will help to rectify those pieces.”

Harlan continues to talk about how it is hard for the board to understand because they are not of that population that suffers. I completely agree. As a woman of color, an Asian American, and a resident of DuPage County, it is difficult to overlook the police brutality after the riots last summer. As the ongoing debate about cash bail continues, it is good to be aware that this issue is situational. There are people of the Naperville police who are good, but Harlan mentions that “this bill is for the state, and it is not just for the Naperville police department, it affects all of the residents of the state,” which I find fascinating. This is an issue brought up by Naperville, one of the 1,299 municipalities in Illinois, that ultimately does not determine the fate of the entire state.

The Board President Mike Reilly said that while the bill has “laudable objectives baked into it,” it also handicaps the district’s officers from doing their job and introduces unworkable liabilities for officers, which are “very troubling.”

Their focus on the police board is good. I understand because that is their job. I do not think they need to “stay in their own lane,” an urging message sent to the board, but they need to know their place. Naperville is generally a white populated area, but in other cities, that is not the case. There are other races in other cities with different police departments that do not share the same issue.

Naperville Park Board Commissioner Marie Todd said that while she believes police reform is needed, the proposed legislation will “handicap” officers’ abilities to keep citizens safe. 

“I think this bill needs more time,” Todd said. “It’s important for them to get this right.”

It is important to advocate for yourself. As for the Naperville Park Board, their intentions are true: to advocate the “matters of the public.” This is the public interest. Although while I am still a teenager, I want my family’s and my future to be safe, but also right by serving justice. I believe that many things cannot be fully solved because there are people with their own opposing opinions to mine, but the best that we can do is to be self-aware. Who are we really advocating for? The Naperville community or the police department?