McLean County Times

McLean County Times

Saturday, March 28, 2020

As state's high court asks for more money, Caulkins calls for more focus on probation over incarceration


By Benjamin Kibbey | Mar 22, 2020

Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) |

Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) is all for properly funding the state's court system but wants to focus on keeping inmates out of prison. 

"I hope that we continue to put emphasis on the probation as opposed to incarceration," he recently told the Daily Herald. "It's not just cost savings, but I think it also gives people a better opportunity to get their lives back together."

Caulkins' comments came after Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke recently advocated for $1.6 million in statewide justice system technology needs before the state House and Senate budget panels.

New technology could assist the state’s criminal justice system with problems such as tracking how many inmates are in county jails and the length of their sentences. It could also make it easier for judges to clear their dockets more quickly.

"The state has 102 counties, 102 elected county boards, 102 county clerks, 102 sheriffs -- all independent contractors," Burke said. A unified record-keeping system for the state could improve transparency with state agencies and assist in creating best practices at each level.

The budget request shows the cost of purchasing the desired technology would be $1.6 million, and the estimated implementation time is 6-to-8 months, according to the Daily Herald.

Though there were technological improvements for the criminal justice system in 2016, Burke said the current system by which data is collected is now obsolete.

"As we move forward, the data collected by the judicial branch -- and the speed and accuracy with which it can be accessed -- will only continue to grow in importance,” she said.

The total budget request by the high court is $483.3 million. In addition to electronic records filing, the request would cover costs such as reimbursements to local governments.

The request is an increase of approximately $29 million over the current year, when the judicial branch had its first budget increase in six years.

Last year was the first time in three decades that the judicial branch was able to fully reimburse salary and probation service costs to the counties. That reimbursement is required annually by state law.

The long drought in funding for the local programs had led to diminished services in some counties.

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Illinois Supreme CourtIllinois State Representative Dan Caulkins

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