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On June 25, at 6 p.m., the Community Justice Task Force will be presenting a final report with its recommendations for the current proposed jail expansion. The meeting will be at Brookens Administration Building (Lierman and Washington St. in east Urbana).
The Task Force has been working for over a year to develop alternatives to the county's original plan to build a multi-million dollar extension of the satellite jail. CUCPJ urges people to attend the session on the 25th and hear what the Task Force recommends. Hopefully their report will provide some concrete ideas for taking the county's criminal justice system in a new direction.
A draft report on the jail by ILPP was released on April 30 and can be read here. Below is a response from CU Citizens for Peace and Justice. A final report from ILPP will come at the end of the summer.
Response from Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice to
ILPP Draft Needs Assessment Report Submitted to Champaign County Board 4/30/13
Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) submit the following in response to the draft report the ILPP presented to the County Board on April 30. While the draft report effectively covered the terms of the RFP, delivered important data about the criminal justice system in our county, and offered many useful recommendations, it did not adequately address the need to move away from a punishment-oriented criminal justice philosophy.
For example, overall Recommendation Seven contends that a key task for the board is “to manage the tension between judicial conservatism and fiscal conservatism.” This overlooks the real philosophical tension that spawned the RFP and the formation of a Community Justice Task Force: the tension between a punishment and incarceration oriented system and one that looks at notions of restorative justice, rehabilitation, prevention and community development. Moreover, a change in philosophy can only materialize if accompanied by a shift in resources away from buildings towards programs that rehabilitate and develop human beings, not construct jail cells. We propose that the areas outlined below be developed in the final report to reflect this philosophical change.
1. Composition and Powers of CJAB
Improving public safety depends on engaging the public. We commend the County Board for opening the discussion of the criminal justice system to public participation, both in the form of hearings and written submissions to the ILPP draft report. We hope that this will set an important precedent for continued public participation in future policy decisions and processes. To that end, the proposed Community Justice Advisory Board needs to be accountable to the community. This could take place in a number of ways, including: community participation in CJAB, the creation of an advisory body made up of community members, making public records of the proceedings of CJAB meetings, and the submission of periodic reports by CJAB on its activities. There are a number of precedents for this kind of public participation in criminal justice advisory bodies across the country, including some, such as in Salt Lake City, that have developed out of recommendations from ILPP.
2. Funding Alternatives
If we are to fundamentally change the criminal justice system in Champaign County, we need to shift resource allocation towards alternatives to incarceration. The current recommendations include virtually no funding for preventive and/or community-based alternatives to incarceration By contrast, there are 14 recommendations related to construction.. This needs major revisions to ensure that funding allocated to alternatives to incarceration becomes a significant part of the recommendations and ultimately the action plan. If alternatives to incarceration are not included in the recommendations and action plan, they will become a low priority for the County Board. Therefore, we propose that the following be included in the recommendations:
a. A community-based, 24/7 mental health facility which would provide both preventive treatment and a venue where police could take people with mental health issues instead of jail;
b. A re-entry program that focuses on people returning from IDOC as a complement to the re-entry proposal in the report that focuses on those on those exiting the county jail;
c. An allocation of funding to seriously examine the problem of racial disparity. While we appreciate the attention given to this issue, we need a recommendation which includes the formation of a racial justice task force, funding for investigation of the factors contributing to the present racial disparity as well as exploration of successful initiatives in other jurisdictions.
d. Programs which provide support for incarcerated women to optimize their opportunities for remaining effective as parents and maintaining custody of their children, particularly access to classes required by social services and access to an open visitation area within the jail for contact visits with children. (These points will be further developed in a separate submission by our Women in the Jail Working Group.)
3. Public Safety Sales Tax
The most obvious source of funding for the types of programs described above is the public safety sales tax. The county currently takes in $4.5 million a year from this tax. At present 95% of that money is allocated by ordinance to construction for law enforcement purposes. If we are to change the county criminal justice system and develop alternatives to incarceration, the board needs to significantly alter those percentage allocations.. Hence, we propose that the report recommend the Board take the necessary steps to implement such a reallocation.
Submitted by Belden Fields on behalf of Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
May 16, 2013