Cook County Proposed 2021 Budget Does Not Go Far Enough to Divest from Policing and Incarceration

 In General

Statement from the Budget for Black Lives Campaign:

Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released her 2021 budget recommendations. The President’s proposed budget includes a 7% ($35 million) decrease in the Cook County Sheriff’s budget. While the Budget for Black Lives platform called for a decrease of $157 million from the Sheriff’s budget, the campaign is pleased to see a decline in county spending on policing and incarceration. Nevertheless, this proposal does not go far enough and it does not meet the needs of our communities.

Although President Preckwinkle’s budget proposal released today does not go far enough in divesting from Cook County Jail, it clearly reflects the pressure created by our campaign and the larger movement to defund police and divest from incarceration. Even while facing a $409 million revenue shortfall, the proposed budget increases spending on the Public Defender’s Office, cuts 300 vacant positions from the Sheriff’s Office, and expands funding for Justice Advisory Council by nearly $20 million, and expands mental health care.

The proposed 2021 Cook County budget does not go far enough in cutting funding from the jail. There are corporations that actively profit from the Cook County Jail system’s punishment and incarceration of Black and Brown families in Cook County. Continually investing in systems of punishment rather than into our people and our communities perpetuates division and devastation, not safety. By prioritizing community and divesting from the jail on a larger scale, Cook County could afford to make robust investments in the things that actually make us safer, including expanded health care, transportation and housing security.

On July 30, 2020, the Cook County Board of Commissioners overwhelmingly passed the non-binding “Justice for Black Lives” Resolution, which committed the county to reallocating funding from policing and incarceration to public services in Black and Brown communities. In early September, grassroots organizers released the Budget for Black Lives platform and called on the Cook County Board to honor the values expressed in the resolution by divesting $157 million from the jail’s budget and investing that amount in expanding access to healthcare, housing, restorative justice, broadband, and good jobs for Black, Brown, and poor communities.

The campaign’s full name is “Budget for Black Lives: Defund the Cook County Jail, Invest in our Communities,” and it is organized by The People’s Lobby, SOUL – Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Chicago Community Bond Fund, National Nurses United, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Visit to view the campaign’s full proposal for divesting from the Cook County Jail and investing in Black and Brown communities. 

Forty-three (43) additional organizations support the Budget for Black Lives campaign. The campaign also supported the Justice for Black Lives resolution sponsored by Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and more than 300 community leaders and impacted people submitted testimony in support of the resolution at the Criminal Justice Committee hearing in July 2020.

The County budget proposal is the necessary follow up to the Resolution for Black Lives, and we hope that in the amendment process commissioners will push for even greater commitments to divest from punishment and invest in communities.

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