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Sayles v. Thompson





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James H. Felt, Judge, presiding.


The representative plaintiffs in this class action are three prisoners heretofore committed to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections and presently confined in Illinois prisons. They brought this action in the circuit court of Cook County on behalf of all Illinois prisoners subject to the Interstate Corrections Compact (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1003-4-4) seeking a declaration that transfers of inmates to out-of-State prisons pursuant to that compact would violate the transportation clause of our constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 11). The Governor and the Director of the Department of Corrections were named as defendants, and plaintiffs prayed that enforcement of the statute be enjoined.

The circuit court denied a motion by defendants to dismiss and granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, ruling that the statute was unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement. Defendants appealed directly to this court pursuant to our Rule 302(a) (87 Ill.2d R. 302(a)).

The sole issue on appeal is whether transfers of inmates pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact violate the transportation clause of our constitution. This inquiry necessitates a determination of the meaning, purpose and scope of the transportation clause.

There is, as this court has frequently emphasized, a strong presumption that legislative enactments are constitutional (People v. Greene (1983), 96 Ill.2d 334, 338; Cronin v. Lindberg (1976), 66 Ill.2d 47, 58), and one who asserts otherwise has the burden of clearly establishing the constitutional violation (Polyvend, Inc. v. Puckorius (1979), 77 Ill.2d 287, 303; People v. Dale (1950), 406 Ill. 238, 244). "A statute should be interpreted so as to avoid a construction which would raise doubts as to its validity. (Morton Grove Park District v. American National Bank & Trust Co. (1980), 78 Ill.2d 353, 363.) It is our duty to construe acts of the legislature so as to affirm their constitutionality and validity, if it can be reasonably done, and further if their construction is doubtful, the doubt will be decided in favor of the validity of the law challenged. Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. v. Illinois State Toll Highway Com. (1969), 42 Ill.2d 385, 389; Illinois Crime Investigating Com. v. Buccieri (1967), 36 Ill.2d 556, 561." People v. Davis (1982), 93 Ill.2d 155, 161-62.

The meaning of a statute or constitutional provision depends upon the intent of the drafters at the time of its adoption, and it is a long-standing principle of statutory construction that it is the court's duty to ascertain and effectuate that intent. (In re Griffin (1982), 92 Ill.2d 48, 52; People ex rel. Hanrahan v. White (1972), 52 Ill.2d 70, 73; People ex rel. Cason v. Ring (1968), 41 Ill.2d 305, 310.) The ordinary meaning of the language employed by the drafters in the questioned constitutional or statutory clause provides the best evidence of the drafters' intent. (People v. Brown (1982), 92 Ill.2d 248, 255; People v. Robinson (1982), 89 Ill.2d 469, 475-76; People v. Haron (1981), 85 Ill.2d 261, 266.) The transportation clause provides:

"No person shall be transported out of the State for an offense committed within the State." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 11.)

Plaintiffs describe this language as clear, explicit and unambiguous, and maintain that the language imposes a blanket ban without regard to the method, form or purpose of transportation. Plaintiffs' characterization, however, clearly overstates the breadth of the clause. If the drafters had intended to unilaterally preclude the transportation of prisoners under all circumstances and for any reason they would surely have stated so. The language of the clause is not unqualified, for it prohibits prisoner transportation only when such transportation is for the commission of an offense.

Defendants contend that the transportation clause was intended to prohibit transportation as a form of punishment for the commission of an offense since this was regarded by the drafters as particularly cruel and unusual. In support of their position defendants rely primarily on the records of the 1970 constitutional convention. They also examine the history of banishment and exile generally, emphasizing that transportation clauses in earlier Illinois constitutions were adopted for the specific purpose of protecting against these archaic forms of punishment.

In England, prior to this century, banishment from the King's dominion was a common form of punishment. (G. Dues, A History of Penal Methods: Criminals, Witches, Lunatics (1914).) English prisoners were frequently transported to the American colonies under a contract of indentured service (Crais, The Compulsion of Subjects to Leave the Realm, 6 L.Q. Rev. 388, 398 (1890).) Once our independence was secured, many States enacted constitutional safeguards against this form of punishment. (See G. Braden & R. Cohn, Illinois Constitution: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis 53 (1969).) Indeed, a prohibition against punishment by transportation has existed in every Illinois constitution, and the language of each has been virtually identical. (See Ill. Const. 1818, art. VIII, sec. 17; Ill. Const. 1848, art. XIII, sec. 18; Ill. Const. 1870, art. II, sec. 11.) The precursor to the present transportation clause was the 1870 clause, which provided:

"[N]or shall any person be transported out of the State for any offense committed within the same." (Ill. Const. 1870, art. II, sec. 11.)

Braden and Cohn explain that the purpose of this language was to protect against prisoner transportation as a cruel form of punishment:

"Historically, banishment or exile from the realm was an accepted form of punishment. The legislature has heeded the admonition against the imposition of this particularly cruel form of punishment." (G. Braden & R. Cohn, Illinois ...

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