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updated: 11/19/2013 5:35 PM

Corrections Dept. says revised gun bill would still be costly

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Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- Revised legislation stiffening penalties for gun crimes would still cost hundreds of millions of dollars and add nearly 2,500 inmates to the crowded correctional system, state officials said.

The Illinois Department of Corrections says the latest version of the gun bill would cost another $549 million over 10 years, a figure that covers operating and construction costs.

The amended bill is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and makes illegal gun-holders serve more prison time.

But the measure stalled in the Illinois House after members of the Legislative Black Caucus stopped the bill through a procedural move during the fall veto session earlier this month, saying the bill was too focused on locking up young men.

The proposal, negotiated for weeks by Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, would stiffen prison penalties for felons and gang members caught with weapons.

The bill scrapped an early requirement that would have forced all first-time offenders to serve a mandatory three-year sentence. The initial version would have cost the state about $700 million and added nearly 3,000 inmates to the prison system.

The updated version would sentence repeat offenders to four years in prison and inmates would be required to serve 85 percent of their sentences.

But officials say even the compromise deal would put pressure on state prisons, which hold nearly 49,000 people. They were designed to house about 32,000.

IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer tells the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers that the agency hasn't determined how it would absorb the potential extra inmates.

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