Op-Ed: Addressing the True Cost of Soft-on-Crime Policies in Illinois

On January 4, 61-year-old Vivian Morgan was on an early morning train ride when she was pinned to her seat, and repeatedly punched and stomped in the head and stomach.

Vivian’s assailant left her battered on the train where she was later found unresponsive. She was transported to Stroger Hospital; however, doctors were pessimistic of her chances due to the extreme nature of her injuries. Nine days later, Vivian died.

Even though I have served as a Rockford area police offiicer for nearly three decades, the details of this murder make me sick! It is a case of wicked violence that represents a deeper issue that plagues Illinois: innocent people falling victim to dangerous career criminals.

Vivian’s attacker was Mijawon Johnson and a quick look at his criminal history on the Illinois Department of Corrections’ website proves he is a textbook example of a career criminal with nothing to lose.

Johnson’s criminal history goes back to 2007 for drug oRenses that incarcerated him for 4 years. By 2015, Johnson was back in prison. Johnson’s subsequent oRenses became increasingly violent, including aggravated battery to a peace oRicer and armed robbery. Johnson was on parole for a 2021-armed robbery when he violently attacked Vivian.

Despite the increasing severity of oRenses documented in his criminal record, Johnson was continually given short sentences and released back into the community. Now, Vivian Morgan is dead. Frankly, this is unacceptable, and our citizens deserve better.

As Republicans in Illinois, we have consistently warned against the dangers of lenient policies towards crime and habitual criminals like Johnson. The state’s soft-on-crime environment has instilled in him – and others like him – a complete disregard for the consequences of his actions and emboldened him to keep committing crimes of incrementally worse severity.

As for Vivian, she represents every Illinoisan: she could be your friend, sister, mother, or grandmother. Our soft-on-crime policies did not protect her on a brief train ride; it cost her life.

Illinois House Republicans are looking to bring a balance in how we treat crime during the 2024 Spring Legislative Session. As an active police oRicer and lawmaker, I am part of the

House GOP’s Truth in Public Safety working group that is seeking to tackle Illinois’ out-of- control crime problem.

The solutions our working group has brought forward are a product of ongoing discussions with local law enforcement, state’s attorneys, and judges from across the state. These are the people on the ground dealing with crime every day.

Our proposed solutions include removing limits on judicial discretion under Democrats’ system of cash-less bail in the SAFE-T Act, protecting victims by more clearly defining and classifying violent criminal behavior, and providing local police departments with the resources they need to keep communities safe from violent oRenders.

For lawmakers, it should not take tragic stories like Vivian’s to motivate action. Our goal should always be a safer Illinois where citizens can travel on the train, shop in the grocery store, and enjoy their neighborhoods – all without fear.

We owe it to the memory of Vivian Morgan, and the others like her aRected by senseless violence, to put political talking points aside and spend this legislative session passing laws to enhance public safety, deter crime, and rehabilitate criminals. It is the only formula that gives us a shot at a safer future for everyone in Illinois.

It’s time for the Illinois General Assembly to protect its citizens and keep the violent career criminals behind bars. These types of hideous violent murders will continue until we prioritize the safety of our citizens over a murderer.

John M. Cabello is the Assistant Minority Leader and State Representative for Illinois’ 90th House District, which includes communities in Winnebago, Stephenson, and Boone counties. In addition to serving in the General Assembly, John is a three-decade veteran of a Rockford area police department where he still serves as a police detective.