Lisa Daniels, the founder and executive director of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices, said her youngest son, Darren, was fatally shot in Park Forest in July 2012 during a robbery.
Her son had a criminal record and was committing a crime before he was shot, Daniels said, and because of that she has held him accountable for his actions posthumously.
“Yet I firmly believe that had he had the options presented in House Bill 4453, had those options been available during his younger years, his story might have ended just a bit differently,” Daniels said.
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, and community leaders called on state legislators to pass his bill that addresses repeat gun offenders, during a meeting Wednesday with police chiefs and command staff at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights.
House Bill 4453 states if a juvenile has previously been placed on probation for or convicted of a gun offense that did not result in injury, then judges should require the juvenile to participate in social service programs for three months.
If the juvenile commits another gun offense, then the juvenile should be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice and receive services such as education, mental health services, drug treatment and mentoring, according to the bill.
“If a juvenile is repeatedly using or possessing a firearm, we must act,” DeLuca said. “Where do you think a juvenile’s life is headed when they are repeatedly involved in gun crime? Which road is their life headed down? How will they behave as an adult without an intervention?”
For juvenile repeat gun offenders, DeLuca said his bill would hold them accountable but also provide them with services and intervention to help them make better decisions.
The social service options the bill provides would address the underlying cause of gun violence, Daniels said. By extension, addressing the root cause of juvenile repeat gun offenders would lead to safer communities in the long run, she said.
“This wholistic approach is crucial because it addresses the multifaceted nature of juvenile delinquency. It’s not just a one size fits all approach because it’s not just a one size fits all problem,” Daniels said.
The bill also offers minors who have made mistakes “a chance at redemption,” Daniels said.
“It is an approach that could’ve provided my son Darren with the support he desperately needed and opportunity to change the path that he was on,” Daniels said.
Prairie State College Board member Bishop Ronnie White said providing mental health, education, substance abuse and mentoring resources to juvenile repeat gun offenders would ultimately affect the community by creating a safer space for residents and police officers.
“Identifying children at risk and referring them to appropriate social services are important first steps in reducing juvenile gun violence and good decision making,” White said.
The proposed legislation would also reenact sentencing guidelines for adult repeat offenders that ended at the start of the year, DeLuca said. If the bill passes, adults convicted of multiple gun offenses would face a minimum of six years in prison.
“Springfield continues to pass more gun laws, and even gun bans, yet time after time Springfield fails to pass laws which actually hold the criminal accountable. Even failing when the criminal is a repeat offender with a firearm. This inaction is jeopardizing the safety of our neighborhoods,” DeLuca said.