- Illinois became the first state to bar police from lying to underage offenders during interrogations.
- Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law, including three other bills aimed at criminal justice reform.
- The legislation builds upon previous reforms spearheaded by former President Obama when he served as an Illinois senator.
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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday making it illegal for police to lie to minors during interrogations.
The state, which was previously known as the “False Confession Capital of the United States,” according to the Innocence Project, is the first in the US to pass a law of this kind.
“Today is a historic day, reflecting how far the Innocence Project’s initial foray into false confession reform has come – from mandating the electronic recording of interrogations, a foundational change that makes a record of what transpires in the interrogation room,” Rebecca Brown, director of policy at the Innocence Project, said.
“This law is a breakthrough in safeguarding against the wrongful convictions of young people, and an opportunity to establish interrogation techniques that stem from seeking truth and justice within law enforcement agencies across the country,” Brown continued.
Lauren Kaeseberg, legal director at the Illinois Innocence Project, told NPR that “in Illinois alone, there have been 100 wrongful convictions predicated on false confessions, including 31 involving people under 18 years of age.”
The legislation passed by Pritzker on Friday was sponsored by state Sen. Robert Peters, who built upon previous reforms sought by former President Barack Obama, who represented the same district as Peters when he served as an Illinois state senator. Then state Sen. Obama sponsored an Illinois law that required interrogations to be recorded.
“Chicago is the wrongful conviction capital of the nation, and a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions were elicited from Black youth by police who were allowed to lie to them during questioning,” Peters said. “That ends now.”
He added: “It’s time to restore real safety and real justice to our communities and end practices that perpetuate trauma and put the wrong people in prison.”
Similar legislation was approved by state lawmakers in Oregon and just awaits Gov. Kate Brown’s signature, and New York legislators introduced a bill banning deceptive interrogation tactics and establishes a court review of recorded confessions to determine if they should be used in court.
It is legal for police officers to lie to underage offenders, such as promising a lenient sentence or suggesting the authorities have nonexistent evidence to provoke a confession.
Pritzker also signed three other bills aimed at criminal justice reform, including making restorative justice practices privileged information, establishing a resentencing task force to analyze ways to reduce the state’s prison population, allowing a state attorney to petition for an offender’s resentencing “if the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice.”