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Report back from County Board meeting on March 22, 2012
Since the proposed plans for the $20 million jail construction project landed on the Champaign County Board agenda earlier this year, the driving force behind this process has been an all-white grouping known as the Jail Space Improvement Planning Team. The team has functioned somewhat like a secret society within the board. While all subcommittees and advisory bodies of the board are supposed to be under the Open Meetings Act (and therefore open to the public and obliged to keep records/minutes of their proceedings), the leading light of the Planning Team, Board member Tom Betz, has repeatedly claimed that the team falls outside the regulations of Open Meetings. When pressed for minutes of their meetings, County Board Administrator Deb Busey claimed that the group never met and therefore had no minutes.
The Public= “Lunatic Fringe”
In the last week, documents acquired by a Freedom Of Information Act request have revealed a number of troubling communications exchanged by members of the Jail Space Improvement Project Planning Team. The Team is the Champaign County Board's primary representative to County staff on the jail issue. Among these documents are emails exchanged by County Administrator Deb Busey and County Sheriff Dan Walsh which site projected costs as well as specific numbers concerning bonds to be issued backed by the Public Safety Sales Tax.
Clearly the word is getting out that the County Board intends to spend $20 million dollars on unneeded jail cells. At each Board meeting, opposition mounts. This week, Tuesday, March 17, at the justice committee meeting of the County Board, three issues rose to the fore. First came the fallout from State’s Attorney Julia Reitz’ comment the previous week that there was no need to include a “token” minority on an all-white jail space improvement team which has the major decision-making power over any construction project. Both Aaron Ammons and Martel Miller called for Reitz to step down from that committee. They also called for further investigation into the reasons why African-Americans make up more than 50% of the county jail population.
Our Cash-Starved Social Services
It took the County Board until almost midnight on Tuesday to pass the RFP for a needs assessment concerning the county jail. This is a first step in their grand plans to spend $20 million (likely more) on building new cells at the satellite jail. The five and a half hour meeting kicked off with an hour of public participation during which a parade of individuals stood at the podium urging the Board to re-think its approach to addressing "public safety" by building more jail beds. Three themes recurred during these inputs: 1) the overwhelmingly disproportionate presence of African Americans in the jails (more than 60% in a county that is 12% Black) 2) the lack of public voice in the decision-making process, particularly on the Board's all-white Jail Space Improvement Planning team which wields the bulk of authority on the jail issue 3) that there are many, many better ways to spend $20 million dollars in Champaign County than to build new jail facilities.
People from Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) have been attending the County Board meetings on the proposed $20 million dollar jail construction project since January. Speakers during public comment have repeatedly pointed out to board members that the central problem with criminal justice in Champaign County is not a deteriorating building but the racial disparities in how the law is enforced. At present only 12% of county residents are African-American, yet our surveys show that typically more than 60% of those in the jail are Black. We assume that none of the board members are the kinds of Neanderthal s who believes Blacks have some special criminal gene or come from an “outlaw culture.” So if our board members don’t fall in that category, we want to know why, despite the fact that we’ve brought this up at every meeting, almost none of them want to deal with this crucial issue. Their silence on these racial disparities is deafening. They are ignoring the elephant in the room.
Save the date!
Interested in using media to transform your community? The Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) celebrates the vibrant and democratic medium of local community-driven radio. We bring together radio operators, media artists, community activists, engineers, and ordinary citizens from across the nation to learn, discuss, brainstorm, and build. Due to last year’s historic Local Community Radio Act, the government will be issuing brand new community radio station licenses all across the country to nonprofits and their partnering community groups, including for the first time in major cities! To that end, the GRC will feature an LP-FM Clinic to help in the process of starting your own LP-FM station and helping existing stations adapt to the digital age. This year’s GRC will celebrate RFU (Radio Free Urbana) raising its new radio tower and the UC-IMC becoming an anchor institution in Urbana-Champaign’s new public broadband system. Stay tuned to grassrootsradioconference.org for more information as the conference approaches. To get involved, contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attached is the 2011 jail inspection of the Champaign County jails by criminal justice specialist Brad Bresson of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Despite claims by Sheriff Dan Walsh that the downtown jail is uninhabitable, it passed state inspection.
Another crowd of people showed up for a second week to oppose plans for expansion of the Champaign County jail. Several individuals spoke during public comment. Among them were:
Mikhail Lyubansky, who writes and teaches about restorative justice, said, "Jail is just one strategy, not the only one" to public safety and called on the County Board to look into alternatives to incarceration.
Peter Campbell of the GEO Solidarity Committee said, "To argue that we should expand a jail in order to treat prisoners better is perverse: any public official who makes this argument is trading on the lives of the most vulnerable in our community for their own political gain."
Chris Evans spoke about the history of the public safety quarter cent sales tax, passed by voters in 1998. The sales tax ought to be brought back to voters, he said.
On Feb. 21-May 15 I will be co-teaching a series of classes for caregivers of individuals with mental illness. I took this class 2 years ago and it really helped me with dealing with the brother with Asperger Syndrome.
The classes are for the CAREGIVER, not the person with mental illness. There are other classes for them.
I encourage you to send this with the poster attachment to anyone who you think might benefit from such classes. We ask for a 13 week commitment. There is a lot of material including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the latest info on treatments for all kinds of disorders.
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call 356-1925 if you have any questions.
We have room for a few more people in the class.
Thanks for caring about those who are caregivers,
In honor of Black History Month, the IMC will be hosting a film series celebrating African-American filmmakers. The first showing will be of the 1993 film Sankofa on Tuesday, February 14th at 6:00 PM. Admission will be $3, with all proceeds going to IMC.
The story follows Mona, a contemporary model, as she is visited by spirits lingering in the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and travels to the past, where, as a house servant named Shola she is constantly abused by her slave masters. Nunu, an African-born field hand, and Shango, Shola's West Indian love interest, all continuously rebel against the slave system. For Nunu this means direct conflict with her son (whose father is a white man) benefiting from the system as a head slave. Inspired by Nunu and Shango's determination to defy the system, Shola finally chooses to fight back against her masters.
On June 5, 2011 Champaign police choked a 20 year old African-American man in the back seat of a squad car while he was in handcuffs. His crime? Asking why he had been stopped, roughed up, and pepper sprayed while walking in campus town.
The below report is by Belden Fields, writer for the Public i, newspaper of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.
It has been two years since Kiwane Carrington was killed by a Champaign police officer, but 18-year-old black youth, Calvin Miller, is still afraid of the police. So when a Champaign cop attempted to pull him over for no apparent reason, he panicked. He only wanted to get home that night.
When Calvin appeared in court for arraignment on Monday afternoon, he walked into the courtroom with crutches. His right ankle was sprained, maybe fractured. His right eye was swollen shut. He also had bump on the right side of his forehead. Other people noticeably stared at him.
Called before Judge Richard Klaus, Calvin was told that he was being charged with resisting a “peace” officer. He had “exited a fleeing vehicle” and “lunged” toward Champaign police officer Matt Rush. He was also being charged for criminal damage to property, less than $300, when the vehicle he was driving ran into the porch steps of a house. The story Calvin told me after the hearing was significantly different.
Today, UCIMC co-founder Danielle Chynoweth was awarded Woman of the Year in Champaign-Urbana, at an award ceremony organized by the News Gazette. To a packed room of over 300, Danielle gave a speech highlighting what she attributes her success to - the ability to see what is not there yet - and talked about the role of the Independent Media Center in our community. She said:
"I was one citizen going to where the silences are and advocating for new possibilities, but I wondered how to develop an infrastructure that would enable many people to do the same. So a group of twelve gathered in my living room 11 years ago to conceive of an independent media center that would provide the tools and training to surface many unheard voices in our community – to provide a forum to talk about problems and seek solutions together."
The annual Unity March took place on Saturday, Oct. 8, a march that this year was organized by Jobs With Justice, CU Citizens for Peace and Justice, and a newly-formed organization Occupy 217. The march began in front of the WEFT radio station in downtown Champaign and ended at Chase Bank. A photo gallery of the march appears below.
After receiving $98 million in bailout money, Chase cut 14,000 jobs.
A group of demonstrators walked into the Chase bank for a temporary occupation.
An advertisement invited visitors, "Get Your Cash Back."
Somewhere outside of a bar scene, just women, open space, open expression, no class, no rules, no right or wrong. All movement is right!
Books To Prisoners Presents: Fall 2011 Book Sale-Pages for Pennies
Friday September 30th: 4pm-8pm
Saturday September 31st: 8pm-5pm
Sunday October 1st: 10am-2pm
$0.75 for paperbacks
$1 for hard covers
***Sunday Special: Bag Sale (fill a bag for only $5)***
202 S. Broadway
Independent Media Center (Main Floor)
To learn more about the Books To Prisoners Program visit: www.books2prisoners.org
On Saturday October 8 from 8pm-Midnight, come out and suport Champaign's own, Edward "G-Da-Man" Hicks, in his first film release debut! "The Dying Breed" is a story that deals with youth violence in the African American community, where kids killing kids is an everyday thing until someone has to make a stand. Charged up by some of the hottest Hip-Hop tracks by some of the tightest MC's of the Midwest, along with non-stop Martial Arts action, this film delivers a must see for all.
An art exhibit of photographs remembering Kiwane Carrington and the Unity March VII by Patricia T. Rosario. The show will run from October 7 - 21. Opening reception on Friday, October 7, 6 - 8 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.