Illinois joined fifteen other states and the District of Columbia after the state Senate voted to abolish the death penalty on Tuesday.

The state of Illinois has not executed anyone for more than a decade due to a moratorium set by former Republican Governor, George Ryan, who found that many innocent people were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.

“We’ve had 20 innocent people on Death Row,” said Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty. “It’s time to be done with the moratorium and do the right thing.”

The bill, passed by the Illinois House and Senate, is headed to newly elected Democratic Governor Patt Quinn’s desk for a signature. Although Quinn says he supports the death penalty for the “worst crimes,” he supports continuing the moratorium and is expected to sign the ban on the death penalty into law.

State Senator Kwame Raoul, who said that innocent people should not be at risk of such a harsh punishment, sponsored the legislation.

“We have an historic opportunity … to join the civilized world and end this practice of risking putting to death innocent people,” Raoul said.

With disproportionate numbers of poor people and minorities being sentenced to death, many civil rights activists see this as a big step forward in the fight to end the death penalty for good.

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