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April 12, 2000

Ryan Supports Federal Public Safety Initiative That Would Supplement Illinois' Tough Anti-Gun Violence Programs

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced his support for the federal "Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act," noting that Illinois’ 15-20-Life law would qualify the state for a share of new federal grants made available under the proposal.

The legislation was passed by the United States House of Representatives yesterday, and now awaits action by the US Senate.

"This important public safety initiative will complement what we have already done in Illinois through the Safe Neighborhood Act, the 15-20-Life program, and our Child Access Prevention (CAP) initiative," Ryan said. "I applaud the House, and especially Speaker Hastert, for taking steps to address gun violence across the country and providing additional federal assistance for states, like Illinois, that have proven their commitment to combating serious gun-related crime."

The Project Exile legislation will provide a total of $100 million in federal resources over five years as an incentive for states to implement programs associated with tougher enforcement of gun laws.

Under the "Exile" measure, states would qualify for grants if they set mandatory minimum five-year sentences for criminals convicted of using or possessing a gun during a violent crime in addition to the sentence provided for the underlying crime. States would also have to agree to coordinate with federal prosecutors and law-enforcement officials and to implement a public awareness campaign to put violent criminals on notice of the tough sentences for gun crimes.

"I am confident that Illinois will qualify for funding under the "Project Exile" legislation passed by the US House," Ryan added.

Under a provision of the Safe Neighborhoods Act – which was passed earlier this week by the General Assembly and which the governor has pledged to sign – criminals convicted of committing a felony with a handgun get a minimum 15 years in prison – not six. Without the Act in place, criminals convicted of using a gun during a felony could be out on the street in three years.

Under the 15-20-Life law, which the governor signed last year, a felon, if convicted, will receive:

    • An additional 15 years in prison if the felon is in possession of a gun while committing a felony crime;
    • An additional 20 years if the felon is armed and intentionally discharges the weapon;
    • An additional 25 years to life if the felon is armed, intentionally discharges the weapon and causes great bodily harm or the death of any person.

The State plans to undertake a public awareness campaign to inform citizens of the penalties under the 15-20-Life legislation later this year.

Federal funds received under the "Exile" program will be used for strengthening state criminal justice systems in a wide variety of ways including hiring and training of more judges, prosecutors and probation officers; increasing prison capacity; and developing information-sharing case management systems that ensure that all segments of the criminal justice system are contributing to and using the same case files for serious offenders.


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