Violent felons get boot-camp sentences, despite Illinois law

Chicago-area judges have sentenced hundreds of violent felons to boot camp despite an Illinois law that allows only nonviolent offenders to enter the program.

The Chicago Sun-Times came to that conclusion after reviewing Cook County records stretching back to 2006.

One of the defendants sentenced to boot camp was Denzel Simons, a 19-year-old first-time offender who could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using a BB handgun to steal nearly $300 from a man at his home. He wasn’t eligible for boot camp, but Judge Diane Cannon sent him there anyway, the story says. He attended for four months.

Less than two years after completing boot camp, Simons was charged with murdering a college student during an attempted robbery. If Cannon had sentenced Simons to prison, he would have likely still been incarcerated at the time.

Cannon has sent 13 convicted armed robbers to boot camp since 2006, the newspaper found. Court records suggest she is a judge who gives first offenders a chance but delivers more harsh sentences if they re-offend.

She told the Sun-Times in an interview that she would no longer send armed robbers and other so-called Class X offenders to boot camp. “To say I feel awful for any loss of life is an understatement,” she said. “But, as a judge, you can’t live in fear over future crimes. I don’t have a crystal ball.”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.