Posts misrepresent Illinois bill rebranding some criminal offenders as ‘justice-impacted individuals’

CLAIM: An Illinois bill would change how individuals who committed criminal offenses are referred to under state law, replacing “offender” with “justice-impacted individual.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. The bill, HB 4409, would not relabel all people who commit crimes as justice-impacted individuals — just those in the state’s Adult Redeploy Illinois program. Adult Redeploy Illinois is intended to reduce incarceration, in part, by placing individuals with any probation-eligible offense in community corrections programs rather than in prison.

THE FACTS: Social media users are omitting details about the bill, implying that it would apply to anyone who has committed a crime.

“Satire is now reality: Illinois just passed a bill to change the word ‘offender’ to justice-impacted individual,” reads one X post that had received approximately 23,000 likes and 10,500 shares as of Friday. “HB 4409 passed both chambers.”

An Instagram post with more than 16,000 likes similarly claimed: “Illinois bill changes the word ‘offender’ to ‘justice-impacted individual’ in state law. This is the current state of our government. Don’t worry about the southern border, grocery and gas prices, or foreign wars. THIS is what truly matters.”

But HB 4409 would only apply to participants in a state rehabilitation program — Adult Redeploy Illinois.

“HB4409 represents a small change to an incredibly successful diversion program that simply seeks to better reflect the program’s intention,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Those who choose to fan the flames of misinformation and fearmongering do all of us a disservice. Focusing on semantics rather than substance is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.”

The bill would amend the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, which created Adult Redeploy Illinois. If it is signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Adult Redeploy Illinois participants would be called “justice-impacted individuals” instead of “offenders” under state law.

Adult Redeploy Illinois is an alternative to incarceration open to individuals with any offense that is eligible for probation. It provides funding and other resources to participating local jurisdictions so that they can use community-based services to reduce the number of people sent to prison.

Counties, groups of counties or judicial circuits design and control their own branch of the program. Services offered include substance use disorder treatment, group therapy, problem-solving courts, specialized probation and mentoring.

Detractors of HB 4409 say the name change promotes a lack of accountability for people who commit crimes, while failing to show empathy for victims of crimes and concern for public safety.

“Through all these changes — change this, change that — the only thing that you don’t want to change is the behavior of criminals,” State Sen. Steve McClure, a Republican, said on the Senate floor Tuesday before voting on the bill. “And guess who’s paying for that right now? Victims all across this state. I urge a no vote.”

Others are concerned that such an adjustment could have a large financial impact.

“Each time we make that change, each agency has to make that change on every one of their documents,” Republican State Sen. Terri Bryant said on Tuesday. “So right now in the Department of Corrections there’s multiple changes that have been made and it’s costing thousands and thousands of dollars just to do a name change.”

HB 4409 was passed by the Illinois state Senate on Tuesday after passing the House on April 16. In addition to the name change, it stipulates that an oversight board for Adult Redeploy Illinois will include two individuals who participated in programs funded by the initiative and adjusts how funding for Adult Redeploy Illinois is allocated.
This is part of the AP’s effort to address widely shared false and misleading information that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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