News Release

Illinois State Senator Robert J. Peters, Illinois State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr., and Illinois State Representative Justin Slaughter Receive the 2021 Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award from Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar

Washington, DC (Aug. 19, 2021) – Today, Illinois State Senator Robert J. Peters, Illinois State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr., and Illinois State Representative Justin Slaughter were presented with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ (NACDL) Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award at NACDL's 20th Annual State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) Conference. The award recognizes an individual or group whose tremendous efforts have led toward progressive reform of a state criminal justice system.

Senator Peters, Senator Sims, and Representative Slaughter ushered in the passage of the monumental 2021 Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act. The SAFE-T Act, also called the Criminal Justice Reform Omnibus, contains long-awaited comprehensive public safety reforms, including ending cash bail and reforming the pretrial system, policing reform, sentencing and prison reform, and victim service reform. This Act makes Illinois a national leader in public safety reforms and begins the process of addressing and untangling decades of racist, ineffective criminal legal system policies, in addition to making communities left behind by the criminal legal system safer. The legislators worked with numerous stakeholders across the state and spent countless hours drafting a bill that puts evidence-based reforms at the forefront, addresses widespread racial disparities, and improves support systems for victims of crime. All three legislators have dedicated their careers to addressing racism and inequity to better their communities and transform their state’s criminal legal system.

“It is an honor to present this award to these legislators whose tireless work and unwavering commitment to justice have permanently changed the criminal legal system in Illinois and is proof to every state what is possible when our leaders come together to pass meaningful, common-sense legislation,” said chair of NACDL’s State Legislative Affairs Committee Michael Iacopino. “The effects of the SAFE-T Act will be widespread and will begin to address some of the most unjust practices that have plagued communities in Illinois for years.”

“This past year, amid continued police violence and the killings of unarmed Black Americans, the United States has seen a renewed call for racial justice and system police reform. Senator Peters, Senator Sims, and Representative Slaughter answered that call by leading the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Illinois Legislature in the passage of the SAFE-T Act,” said NACDL’s Senior Director of Advocacy Monica L. Reid. “Not only does this legislation provide for a broad range of policing reforms, including banning chokeholds, mandating body cameras, restricting the use of deadly force, and enhancing licensing and certification requirements; but it also addresses multiple aspects of Illinois’ criminal legal system that disproportionately impact Black and other communities of color. Their efforts in bringing this omnibus criminal justice reform to pass is a true testament to the spirit of NACDL’s Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award.”

Senator Peters has dedicated his career to advocating for and advancing fairness within his community and district by working to undo the harmful effects of unjust, racist policies. Since his election in 2019, he has been at the forefront of the movement to reform the Illinois criminal legal system. As an organizer, Senator Peters helped start the End Money Bond Coalition and introduced the measure that ended money bond in Illinois in the SAFE-T Act. He chairs the Public Safety Committee and in 2021, he sponsored and fought for measures to encourage restorative justice, prevent young children from being held in juvenile detention facilities, decriminalize HIV, and supported measures to give prosecutors the ability to resentence people with extreme prison terms.

Senator Sims was elected to the Illinois Legislature in 2012, serving in the Illinois House from 2012 to 2018 before becoming a state senator. He has become a leading voice of the movement through his work to address the numerous problems that plague our criminal legal system. Senator Sims is the Vice-Chair of the Criminal Law Committee, Chair of the Criminal Law - Clear Compliance and Judiciary - Torts, and Co-Chair of the Criminal Law - Special Issues Committee. This year, he introduced legislation to reduce penalties for drug and theft convictions, to let people finish the end of their sentences at home, and to ensure people who have been exonerated receive fair and just compensation.

Representative Slaughter was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2017 after a career in public service and advocating for under-served communities. He previously worked for the Offices of the Cook County Bureau of Administration, the Secretary to the Board of Commissioners, as a Policy Advisor for Governor Pat Quinn, and as the Deputy Director at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. After the passage of the SAFE-T Act, Representative Slaughter continued to chair the House’s Judiciary - Criminal Committee. He supported measures that would restore parole opportunities and support people caught in the devastating “War on Drugs.” He also sponsored legislation to incentivize the hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals, to allow for more criminal records to be expunged or sealed, and to protect the constitutional rights of children from being interrogated by law enforcement.

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Kate Holden, NACDL Public Affairs and Communications Associate, (202) 465-7624 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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