The CLEAR Commission has been meeting since early 2005 in an intensive process to review and reform the Illinois Criminal Code and Code of Corrections to make them more readable, understandable, consistent and just. The 22 person Commission includes respected policy makers and practitioners representing diverse perspectives on the criminal justice system, as well as the geographic, racial and economic composition of the state. DePaul Emeritus Professor of Law, John F. Decker, is Special Advisor to the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Initiative.
Over the years, cumulative piecemeal changes have resulted in a confusing collection of laws that do not serve the needs of police,prosecutors, judges or the accused. Some sections had actually been ruled unconstitutional. Others had confusing language with many redundancies and inconsistencies that sorely needed to be streamlined and put into a logical organization.
Benefits of a less complex Illinois Criminal Code will include :
- The Code will be more accessible to laypeople trying to obey the law.
- Judges and lawyers will find the code easier to understand and apply.
- It will eliminate disputes over interpretation of the Code that can reduce costly retrials, court delays and mistakes.
- The size of the Code will be reduced significantly. and indexing will be improved.
- Policy makers will more easily understand the implications of amendments proposed in the future.
- The new Code will limit the opportunity for lengthy and expensive appeals due to confusion with the existing Code.
The changes the commission has recommended have to be implemented by legislation by the General Assembly. A series of bills have been approved by the General Assembly. Some of the previous bills passed by the legislature are listed on the CLEAR Commission web page.
According to a May 31, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, what should be the final two bills of the multi-year revision process, are ready for Governor Quinn's signature. One of those bills officially changes the name of Illinois Criminal Code to the"Criminal Code of 2012". ("CLEAR bills head to Quinn", Josh Weinhold p.1 )
As a way to maintain the hard-earned order of the new code, the Commission has established a compliance subcommittee that will review bills that call for penalty enhancements or create new crimes. Also the 18-member Sentencing Policy Advisory Committee, will "...study the states sentencing practices and offer objective policy recommendations to improve the system."
Senator Kirk Dillard, R - Hinsdale, is quoted in the article saying that ‘A lot has changed in the criminals' minds and techologý since 1961,” “So to have a Criminal Code of 2012 a least shows legislators and practitioners, decades from now, that we did something to modernize our efforts to combat crime in Illinois."