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(Springfield, IL – May 5, 2017) – Today, the Illinois Senate unanimously passed legislation in a 49-0 vote that would protect the innocent from wrongful convictions through safeguards to improve the reliability of jailhouse informant testimony. Senate Bill 1830, which was proposed by both the Innocence Project and the Illinois Innocence Project and filed by lead sponsor Senator Michael E. Hastings and chief co-sponsor, Senator Patricia Van Pelt, aims to prevent wrongful convictions by requiring pre-trial reliability hearings of jailhouse informant testimony and require a judge to determine the veracity and credibility of informants. An in-custody or jailhouse informant is someone who claims to have knowledge of admissions made to him or her by a criminal suspect while being detained with that suspect, and offers such knowledge in exchange for some incentive provided by law enforcement or the prosecution. Under the bill, prosecutors are also required to disclose any intent to introduce informant testimony at least 30 days prior to the hearing.

Illinois has led the way in regulating informants as it passed its first such law in 2003, but that law only applied to capital cases. Since the death penalty was abolished in 2011, the law was rendered effectively moot. This bill would bring that law back to life by expanding its scope to provide much needed regulation of jailhouse informants in the most serious crime categories such as homicide, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated arson.

“Cases in Illinois are showing us that you get what you pay for. If you incentivize testimony, people are likely to lie and innocent people go to jail. Sending the wrong person to prison does not make our neighborhoods any safer,” said Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park).

“We are very pleased that the Illinois Senate has approved of this legislation.  The false testimony of jailhouse informants has proven to be of particular concern in this state, where it has been utilized in many of the highest-profile cases of wrongful conviction,” said John Hanlon, Executive Director and Legal Director of the Illinois Innocence Project. “We are grateful to The Innocence Project for their assistance with this legislation, and we look forward to the bill continuing to move forward through the legislative process until it becomes law.”
 
Professor Alexandra Natapoff of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, is a national expert on the use of criminal informants and has helped draft numerous pieces of state and federal legislation.  “This is an exciting reform,” she added. “Reliability hearings are one of the most promising methods for reducing informant fabrications.  These hearings encourage full disclosure, and they give the court better tools for protecting the integrity of the criminal process."

Incentivized informant testimony is notoriously unreliable, and is a contributing factor in 17 percent of the 349 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. Incentives, which range from leniency on punishment, modified accommodations, change in correctional facility, or money or other material goods provided to the informant or to his or her family, can serve to corrupt testimony and can encourage falsehoods. The passage and implementation of SB 1830 would help ensure accuracy and transparency in the criminal justice system.

"We are incredibly grateful to Senator Hastings and the entire Senate as they have demonstrated that Illinois cares deeply about reliability in the criminal justice system. This bill will add necessary protections to ensure the reliability of jailhouse informants and protect the innocent. We look forward to working with the House of Representatives and stakeholders to ensure this bill passes the full legislature and becomes law,” said Amol Sinha, State Policy Advocate for the Innocence Project which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law in New York, NY.

The Innocence Project and the Illinois Innocence Project are hopeful the House of Representatives will now act swiftly to enact these necessary protections.

Category: Press Releases

March 8 RS

SPRINGFIELD — As the federal government rolls back regulations to allow commercial websites like Google and Facebook sell Illinois residents’ personal data; State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is leading the charge to increase protections.

Hastings passed Senate Bill 1502, the Right to Know Act, which would allow consumers to request what information such companies collect about them. Click here to listen to his remarks.

“As the federal government continues to roll back regulations that would allow companies like Google and Facebook to sell and share your personal data, the need for state regulations has become absolutely vital,” Hastings said. “This day and age we can do everything online from paying our bills to buying groceries. The price of surfing the web shouldn’t mean sacrificing your privacy and personal information.”

Current Illinois law requires businesses that collect personal informational to implement security measures to notify customers of security breaches. However, commercial websites are not required to notify residents what data they collect or whom they share that data with.

“I care about our neighbors and I care about all the sensitive information that is shared and sold,” Hastings said.  “This is your personal information. You should know who is storing your records and who has access to them.”

This new initiative would require commercial websites that collect personal information to notify customers of the information they have collected as well as any third parties with whom

they may have disclosed personal information.

“Cybersecurity is a big deal,” Hastings said. “It’s important for Illinois’ laws to update and evolve with the needs of the people. This is a small step to protect Illinois residents’ privacy and security.”

Senate Bill 1502 passed the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

Category: Press Releases

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SPRINGFIELD— State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) worked today to investigate the cybersecurity breach at the Illinois State Board of Elections.

During the 2016 election year, 70,000 to 80,000 names from the State Board of Elections voter registration system were compromised.

Hastings convened the Illinois Senate Subcommittee on Cybersecurity to receive a full report on the cybersecurity breach that the Illinois State Board of Elections experienced during the 2016 election year to ensure Illinois residents that protections are in place to protect their personal data and resolve unanswered questions.

“Our elections are a sacred component of our nation’s democracy,” Hastings said. “I cannot stand up as foreign agents meddle in Illinois and U.S. elections. I do not care what political party the people of Illinois pick to represent them, but I do want outcome of our elections to be accurate.”  

The Illinois State Board of Elections reported that seven IP addresses were linked back to the Netherlands. Two servers were reported to have participated in the attack, “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear”, which are the two largest hacking groups rumored to be tied to the Russian federal security systems run by King Servers, which is stationed in Russia.

Hastings reiterated that the hacking of voter registration data in Illinois was similar to security breaches at the national level and in France and Denmark.

A key finding from the hearing, found as local election authorities synced and update data with the Illinois State Board of Elections, was that the local election authorities databasescould possibly become compromised as well.

Hastings is calling for the Illinois State Board of Elections to aid local election authorities to scrape their system of potential malware software to remove any type of security weakness.

His office will be sending out a letter to every local election authority urging them to scrape election databases to prevent possible hackers and intrusive software that may be hiding within their systems.

“I am extremely concerned that our local and state election authorities may have hackers hiding within our databases phishing for future attacks,” Hastings said. “Our democracy is important. It is important enough that I put my life on the line for our nation, as many others have. I will not rest until we take every precaution to ensure similar attacks on our liberties and righteous values do not happen again.”

Hastings commended the representatives from the Illinois State Board of Elections for their forthright and honest answers.

Category: Press Releases

March2 RS

SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is working to combat alarming veterans suicide statistics in the nation.

According to a recent study by the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.

House Bill 2647 is a collection of comprehensive recommendations that work to ensure veterans have better access to services, treatment for mental trauma and depression as well as better access to employment opportunities.

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park), a former U.S. Army captain, is proud to be part of this vital initiative. Hastings served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is in constant contact with many men and women from his unit.

As he meets with veterans in his community there is a common theme, disconnect between state and federal veterans benefits.

“Our nation’s heroes shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to receive benefits they qualify for,” Hastings said. “The state and federal government is trying their best to make sure veterans have the necessary resources to transition back to civilian life. However, the hurdles, redundancies and extra paperwork they have to go through to actually receive the benefits don’t make sense.  Our goal is to streamline the process to ease the burden on our returning veterans.”

This week, House Bill 2647 advanced with bipartisan support out of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

“One veteran that is lost to suicide is one too many,” Cullerton said. “The proposals outlined in this legislation are common-sense solutions to help Illinois remove barriers between veterans and the resources they qualify for. This initiative wasn’t compiled in haste but over hours and weeks of testimony, input and concerns raised by veterans, their loved ones and veterans organizations throughout the state. This is a true testament to their hard work and dedication to our nation’s heroes. I’m proud to advance this measure and be part of this monumental effort.”

A common theme throughout the process is finding ways to access veterans resources promised to the state as well as disconnect between federal and state resources. House Bill 2647 creates a connection between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense to help streamline and remove redundancies when returning veterans redeem benefits.

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Category: Press Releases

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CONTACT SENATOR HASTINGS

Welcome to the official website of Senator Michael E. Hastings. Please fill out our contact form to contact Senator Hastings directly or you may call any of our offices. We look forward to hearing from you.

Springfield Office:
118 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-9595

East Office:
813 School Ave
Matteson, IL 60443

District Office:
20855 South LaGrange Road
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 464-5431

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