After a year and a half of grassroots organizing by the No More Jails Campaign of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, Champaign County has realized a major victory in local and national efforts to move away from incarceration and towards healing and restoring our communities.
Here is their statement:
On October 24th, the Champaign County Board recommended a budget that includes not one dollar for new jail cells! When the campaign first began, a $22 million dollar jail expansion project appeared imminent. Now, the county is beginning to make significant investments to decrease the jail population and support prevention.
In short, the 2014 County budget includes:
• $200,000 of additional funds for:
A new re-entry program for those returning from prison and jail. Champaign County is unusual in that it lacks reentry services that are essential for preventing recidivism.
Minor modifications to the satellite jail to accommodate women who are currently housed in the poorly maintained downtown jail.
Drug Court - additional support.
• ~$130,000 to do classification and screening at the jail, designed to keep those who are deemed low risk out of jail or in minimum security. This will help people keep their jobs and be with their families while saving taxpayer dollars.
• Providing an investigator in the public defender's office. This is a first step towards leveling the playing field in the unfair fight between prosecution and public defense. An investigator will allow the public defender to interview witnesses and collect data to support a defendant's case.
• It also maintains the ~$230,600 aimed at keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system that has historically been in the budget.
All told, this means about 13% of the $4.6 million of annual public safety sales tax money will be going for measures to reduce incarceration. While this falls short of the 30% requested by the Community Justice Task Force, it opens the door to expanding preventative programs and changing the priorities for criminal justice.
Most importantly, we have stopped the construction of a $22 million jail expansion project!
We need to monitor the implementation of these new programs and prevent future requests for expansion. We also need to convince the County Board to establish the Racial Justice Task Force recommended by the Community Justice Task Force. And we need to reestablish parent-child contact visits so children are allowed contact with their loved ones behind bars.
For now, the budget will be on file for 15 days and then be finally approved at the Board meeting on November 21.
Thanks to the hundreds of people who turned out for meetings and the thousands who signed petitions for more programs not more jails. Together we did it!
- No More Jails Team
See the proposed County budget, specifically the Public Safety Sales Tax portion.