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In these tumultuous times, when our nation is trying to not only navigate a global pandemic, but also actually reckon with its long history of institutional racism, mass incarceration, and devastation of poor communities and communities of color, the cry for criminal justice reform is loud and getting louder, particularly regarding sentencing, and it is time for Illinois to require its courts to commit to doing more in accordance with our constitution. In this article, the authors examine the legislative and constitutional history of Illinois, the effects of a series of recent decisions made in the context of the sentencing of juveniles, and the applicability of family law norms to sentencing decisions. It is time for Illinois courts to permanently commit to doing more, to follow the dictates of its own constitution and, in sentencing, take seriously its directive of acting with the goal of returning an offender to useful citizenship. Illinois courts should now seek to uphold the promise of our Illinois Constitution regarding sentencing: “All penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship. No conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate. No person shall be transported out of the State for an offense committed within the State.” The authors argue that Illinois courts should have to make findings of how their sentences comport with the Illinois Constitution and advocate for those representing the accused to ask for those findings and to present evidence in support of sentences which have the goal of returning an offender to useful citizenship.

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Northern Illinois University Law Review

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Andrea D. Lyon & Hannah J. Brooks, Stepping Towards Justice: The Case for the Illinois Constitution Requiring More Protection than Not Falling Below “Cruel and Unusual” Punishment, 41 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 47 (2021).

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