Documenter Archive: First JAC Meeting

JAC Council Continues their fight for criminal justice reform

This is an upload of last year’s final Justice Advisory Council Meeting. This document is uploaded on City Bureau’s Documenters App. Documenters is a civic engagement program that brings the skills of journalism to communities with free training and paid assignments. Link for original document in highlighted text above.

This meeting is held to coordinate and implement criminal and juvenile justice reform efforts and public safety policy development. The Justice Advisory Council (JAC) collaborates with key stakeholders implementing court diversion programs for low-risk offenders that are supported by community-based recidivism programs. The main goals of this particular meeting are:

This meeting is held to coordinate and implement criminal and juvenile justice reform efforts and public safety policy development. The Justice Advisory Council (JAC) collaborates with key stakeholders implementing court diversion programs for low risk offenders that are supported by community based recidivism programs. The main goals of this particular meeting are:

  1. Update and review on the work being done with grant from MacArthur Foundation.
  2. Update on the progress of job training program, Career Launch.
  3. Update on all changes being worked on with expungement legislation.
  4. Update on court closings.

The main concern of the attendees was ethics, transparency, and accountability. Major themes of the meeting were openness and collaboration.

The Scene

JAC meetings are on the 22nd floor of the George W Dunn Cook County office building. The majority of attendees were JAC Board members or Cook County staff. Non-government official attendees are mostly affiliated with nonprofit organizations. With a nice view downtown the room reminds one of the nice classrooms in college, and over the course of the meeting shared the ability to lighten the mood during even the most serious discussions.

Council Discussion

At 8:30 the meeting was called to order. After passing around two documents, last month’s minutes and the agenda, the meeting wasted no time moving into the matters at hand. Kim Davis-Ambrose, Rebeca Janowicz, and Ali Abid would be presenting updates on the Safety and Justice Challenge supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the job training program called Career Launch, and legal matters impacting those affected by the criminal justice system.

Community engagement director, Davis-Ambrose, started off with an update on her work with MacArthur. She is leading an initiative engaging community groups in conversation around criminal justice reform and tackling issues of racial equity. She will be facilitating 5-7 weeks of dialogue in communities like Austin, Roseland, and Lawndale. She closed adding, “we don’t just want to have a conversation one time”.

Next, Janowicz and others spoke on the obstacles that come with the job training program, Career Launch. The program is meant for 18-24 year olds disengaged from school and work; often those enrolled in the program have already been dealt a blow capitalism and the criminal justice system. On top of any setbacks enrollees deal with involving the system, Janowicz and co showed concerns for tackling issues on the jobsite. Specifically, the JAC expressed that handling issues of gang affiliation and racial animosity is essential for bringing equitable justice to Chicago. This transitioned perfectly to the violence prevention grants.

Momentarily, JAC and Cook County staff went around the table giving examples of violence prevention work being supported. On December 1st, 8 violence prevention grants for $300,000 will be awarded. There are 27 pending grants and 20 grantees; this includes groups like Ceasefire, Westside Health Authority, and Precious Blood Ministry. These programs offer services like cognitive behavioral therapy and literacy training. It is understood that there are programs that specialize in violence prevention with services that are particularly tailored for social justice that are already doing the work. The JAC’s job is to find the right programs.

Cook County staff, Ali Abid, led the discussion on court closings and expungement legislation. Accountability, transparency, and equity were the major themes of this conversation. The methodology of dealing with administrative and legislative changes should be ethical for those dealing with socioeconomic obstacles; The JAC’s job is to advocate for those impacted by criminal justice system and to negotiate for reform that is centered around justice.

Abid addressed the closing of the branch courthouses at 2452 W Belmont Ave and 155 W 51st St. These closings impacted around 400 cases, so Abid is leading the effort to contact them for any change of date and location. He has partnered with lawyers from Justice Care to give legal advice and bus cards to those who went to a closed courthouse. The Honorable P Scott Neville encouraged Abid to leave a “paper trail” to hold administrative judges accountable. Abid add, “they have verbal assurance that the judges won’t penalize those who went to a closed courtroom”.

Abid continues on legislative matters by turning our attention to negotiations on the revisions of the Illinois Expungement law. JAC worked to have automatic juvenile expungement and looks to negotiate with the Police Chief Association on changing drug possessions away from being a “felony stamp”. The negotiation revolves around the retroactivity of expungement and compromising on what length of time of being crime-free would allot eligibility for expungement. Abid adds, “Right now all possession is a felony,” he continues, “if the goal is to get people with substance abuse disorders to get help, having a felony on your record is incredibly detrimental”.

The final matter of the council discussion was the $1 million in funding that will be impacting a South Suburb community through recidivism programs. This is new business and once approved will go to programs that are for women and mothers impacted by the criminal justice system for safety and transit needs.

Community Perspective

As JAC Board member, Ed Tivador, announced a job opportunity with Kolbe House(Director of Jail Ministries) the themes of accountability, collaboration,  and healing echoed throughout the room. As we adjourned and gave our farewells this wasn’t more evident; the attendees stayed in the meeting room to continue discussions that weren’t completed. One attendee, a math teacher, advocated those involved with the MacArthur funding to hold programs accountable for their impact on the individual as well. These moments proved the ethical foundation of JAC is based on servicing the community with the best of their ability.

Outcomes

The Justice Advisory Council meets once a month in the Dunn Building. If you would like to attend the next meeting contact (312)603-1133 for details. For a play-by-play analysis, see Rebecca Stoner’s tweets.

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