The “Justice for Black Lives” Resolution Passes!
The “Justice for Black Lives” resolution was passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners today! This is an important first step in the fight to defund Cook County Jail and invest in our communities!
Now that the resolution is passed, we will be working with our partners at SOUL, The People’s Lobby, National Nurses United, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law to implement it through the budgeting process this summer and fall. You can read news coverage of the resolution and our joint action outside the jail in the Chicago Sun-Times (action) (resolution), Chicago Tribune, Block Club Chicago, and Injustice Watch. Read the testimony CCBF submitted to the County Board here.
Read the resolution:
JUSTICE FOR BLACK LIVES
WHEREAS, throughout the history of the United States, policing, criminalization, and incarceration have been used as tools of violence and retribution against marginalized groups seeking safety, especially Black people; and
WHEREAS, policing was in part developed as a tool to preserve the institution of slavery in the 1700’s, focusing on chasing down runaway slaves and shutting down slave revolts, grew into a weapon to disrupt labor uprisings in the 1800s, and matured in the 1900s to be used as the single most effective tool in repressing the civil rights movement; and
WHEREAS, policing has had a troubled history in Cook County, most conspicuously visible in the wrongful conviction of more than 125 Black people over dozens of years as a result of the police work enabled by disgraced Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his associates, thereby permanently damaging the lives of hundreds of accused people, their family members, and Black communities at large; and
WHEREAS, the historic resistance to acknowledge problems in policing remains prevalent, illustrated by the alleged social media posts made by active Cook County Sheriff’s Officers in response to the peaceful protesting by attorneys in the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender on June 12th; and
WHEREAS, the brutality of law enforcement has become so commonplace in Black life that it is an ever-present cultural rite of passage in Black families to teach their children how to not be killed by law enforcement before they become adults; and
WHEREAS, despite centuries-long increased spending on traditional law enforcement, violence remains a problem in many communities, and there is little positive correlation between residents’ feeling of safety and the degree of law enforcement presence in those communities; and
WHEREAS, currently most crimes are not resolved within the criminal justice system. The majority of sexual assaults and roughly half of robberies and aggravated assaults are never reported to police. Given the choice, many crime survivors choose nothing at all or accountability outside of criminal prosecution rather than seek help from our current justice system; and
WHEREAS, across the country, spending on traditional law enforcement and incarceration has escalated with no correlation to metrics of success such as clearance rates or sense of safety. For example, despite a 50% decrease in the number of people incarcerated in the Cook County Jail between 2013 and 2020, the Cook County Department of Corrections budget grew 26% over the same time period; and
WHEREAS, almost all people incarcerated in the jail are there while awaiting trial, and many hundreds specifically because they cannot afford to pay a money bond. They are presumed innocent but still sit locked in cages because they are Black and poor. There is little focus on the root causes of violence or engaging in the restorative processes that actually address harm and generate needed accountability, healing, and repair for survivors of violence; and
WHEREAS, interventions that would reduce the need for traditional law enforcement have been seen by too many officials with the power to allocate public resources as secondary efforts to maintain community peace. Specific endeavors that engage school-aged children, support street outreach workers, reclaim public spaces, promote job preparation and job growth and others go underfunded as a result of our reliance on traditional law enforcement spending; and
WHEREAS, despite the decades long challenges preceding it, since 2010, Cook County has focused its efforts on justice reinvestment and has undertaken significant efforts to change the status quo through its work to reform bond court, substantially reduce the number of people incarcerated in the County Jail and Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, greatly expand access to behavioral health care including mental health treatment through County Care, which has directly insured thousands of county residents, establish the Behavioral Health Consortium of Illinois to expand healthcare access throughout the city and south suburbs, and reinvest $23 million dollars in Violence Prevention, Recidivism Reduction, and Restorative Justice grants directly to community organizations rather than through law enforcement; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Cook County Board of Commissioners does hereby declare that to best keep communities safe and reduce contact between people and law enforcement that has historically increased unaccountable violence inflicted on Black and Brown communities physically, economically, and emotionally, Cook County should engage in efforts to redirect funds from policing and incarceration to public services not administered by law enforcement that promote community health and safety equitably across the County, but especially in Black and Brown communities most impacted by violence and incarceration.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cook County Board of Commissioners shall focus on its ability to invest additional resources in the following areas:
- Housing: According to the 2019 State of Rental Housing in Cook County, 50% of renter households in Cook County are paying unaffordable housing costs. Cook County through the Bureau of Economic Development and the Housing Authority of Cook County should explore opportunities to expand the availability of high-quality affordable housing and strengthen pathways for homeownership in communities of color to build wealth.
- Health Care: In this global pandemic, the same communities of color harmed by police violence and incarceration are also bearing the brunt of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Cook County through Cook County Health should increase funding for health care and further concentrate health care offerings in communities of color.
- Mental Health: Cook County should expand mental health inpatient/outpatient care including for individuals leaving incarceration and ensure that first responders for people in mental health crisis are mental health professionals and not police.
- Restorative Justice: To guard against militarization of local police, Cook County should utilize the Prohibited and Controlled Equipment lists of the Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group established under the Obama administration to guide acquisition of Emergency Management equipment. Prohibited equipment includes but is not limited to grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and firearms and ammunition exceeding .50 caliber. Cook County should invest additional resources in restorative justice programs that restore harm done to survivors of crime and violence and engage in community accountability with people who do harm to others rather than just punishing people.
- Job Creation: Cook County through the Bureau of Economic Development and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership should use additional resources to maintain a living wage and create public sector opportunities and encourage private sector jobs for people in communities of color.
- Public Transit: Cook County through the Bureau of Economic Development and the Department of Transportation and Highways shall continue to work with transit partners to advocate for the expansion of spending on public transit in communities of color and low-income communities.
- Eviction/Foreclosure: Cook County shall work with the State and legal advocates to ensure those facing evictions and mortgage foreclosures have ready access to high quality legal assistance. Cook County should continue to expand on innovative efforts to prevent the loss of property in Black and Brown communities via the Tax Sale.
- Increase M/WBE Opportunity: Cook County Government, through the Office of Contract Compliance and in close collaboration with all of its departments, shall endeavor to improve its operations, review its procurement strategies and streamline its payment processes to facilitate increased participation by certified MBE and WBE firms on Cook County and Cook County Health contracts. The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer shall modernize its solicitation processes and evaluate bid incentive options for local businesses, including MBE and WBE firms, owned and operated by public schools graduates located within Cook County. Where the Office of Contract Compliance and the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer assess monetary penalties against vendors who fail to meet MBE and/or WBE commitments, all monetary penalties shall be designated to a special purpose fund for the purpose of assisting MBE and WBE businesses
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that ceremonial copies of this resolution be delivered to Governor JB Pritzker, Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President Don Harmon, Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, and Chief Judge Timothy Evans.