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July 27, 2001

Ryan Adds Aggravated Arson to Truth-in-Sentencing Law

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan signed House Bill 427 into law today, adding aggravated arson to the list of offenses covered by the state's Truth-in-Sentencing law. The new law will almost double the average amount of time an offender spends in prison.

"Aggravated arson is a serious offense that deserves a serious punishment," Governor Ryan said. "This crime puts the lives of residents and neighbors of the targeted buildings, as well as the lives of firemen and others at risk."

House Bill 427 passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously. It provides that a prisoner sentenced for aggravated arson receives no more than 4.5 days of good conduct credit each month of his or her sentence. Prior to Governor Ryan's signing this bill into law, the average sentence for aggravated arson was 10 years, with the average length of stay of 4.6 years. Under the Truth-in-Sentencing guidelines, where a minimum of 85% of the sentence must be served, the expected length of stay would be 8.5 years.

"We must be careful when we add to the list of crimes covered by our Truth-in-Sentencing law," Governor Ryan said. "Truth-in-Sentencing should be reserved for only the most serious and violent offenses. Aggravated Arson is one of those offenses, and we must be sure people convicted of this crime are kept behind bars for a long time, to keep our families safe."

Aggravated Arson is when a person damages a building by fire or explosion when he knows or should reasonably know that persons are present in the building. HB 427 becomes effective immediately.


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