Champaign County ACLU Steering Committee

Thursday, April 5, 2012,


7:05 pm


  1. Introductions—new Steering committee member Mort Brussel was introduced.

Those present: Bill Brown, Bob Illyes, Mort Brussel, Richard Schnuer, Faruq Nelson, Stuart Laird, Steve Portnoy, Carol Leff, Carol Spindel, Barbara Kessel, Esther Patt


  1. Approval of minutes of March meeting approved as amended.


  1. Treasurer’s report—Treasurer Steve Portnoy reported that the annual meeting was a break-even event, with approximately 1900 taken in and paid out. We do not expect this event to be a fundraiser, so that is a satisfactory outcome.


  1. Announcements & Communications

a)       Law School Chapter & Student Chapter reports, other reports?

--The Safe Schools initiative had a public showing of three films attended by around 100 people; the final film was a documentary “Bullied” on the Wisconsin court case in which a bullied LGBT child later successfully sued the school system as an adult and won a major $900,000 settlement for the failure to stop the bullying.


--There was extensive discussion of the issues surrounding the proposed closure of the state’s super-maximum security prison in Tamms. Points noted include:

      The expense—human and fiscal—of extensive solitary confinement facilities, which are only otherwise present nationally in federal, not state prisons. 

      Barbara Kessel mentioned the Sunday News Gazette editorial and Belden Fields response; noting that the issue isn’t settled yet, she also suggested writing or calling Senator Mike Frerichs on the issue; he is on the committee that must approve the prison closure.

      ACLU public response document at:


--The “Motion to Dismiss” legislation ACLU supported in the state legislature was scheduled for hearings; sponsor Naomi Jacobssen then pulled it after polling the committee and finding that it didn’t have a chance of passage. It was noted that the current House Judiciary committee in the legislature is seen as a kind of civil rights “graveyard.”

Coerced confessions are a continued problem in the courts.

Further relevant legislation probably needs endorsements from organizations such as the state bar association and the Cook County Public Defenders Office.


b)       Give Steve any additional Hiram Paley RBF memorial contributions for mailing the next day.

c)        Sign up for April 14th Chapter Membership Recruitment Training at

  1. Old Business

a)       Discuss annual meeting, suggestions for next time, etc  There was discussion of the venue, size and food variety, and whether we should diversify locales. Some alternatives are the I-Hotel (more expensive but sound system included) and the Terminal building facilities.

b)       Immigration forum liaison

c)        Carol Leff reported on the current activities of the Immigration Forum, which has received verbal assurances from Champaign County sheriff’s office that it will not be implementing so-called ICE holds on detained undocumented immigrants.

  1. New Business

a)       We discussed what rights issues might attend the proposals for renovating/reconstructing the county jail (either to remodel the older downtown jail or built an extension onto the satellite newer facility). Certainly there are physical and especially mental health and climate control issues in the old county jail, and the question of suicides in custody.  A decision on the plan is due December 2012. 

The right to vote from jail was also noted in discussion; prisoners awaiting trial do have the right to vote; the voting issue also led to questions about the issue of using churches as voting sites; Esther will download the precinct lists to help evaluate the current situation.


b)       Former Student/graphic designer was found to redesign website—emphasis on simplicity and

                                                               i.      Had “brainstorming” session with Carol Spindel, Bob Illyes, & Bill on Monday

                                                              ii.      A $200 Payment for services was suggested

                                                            iii.      Plan to meet again Monday following Chapter training

c)        It was tentatively agreed to move forward with providing a contingent to march in  the July 4th parade.

d)       Market at the square – need to reserve dates.  It would be useful to develop a survey or quiz for more interaction at the booth

e)       Goals for coming year to be discussed at the next meeting.

  1. Adjournment

Next meetings: 

Membership Recruitment Training Saturday April 14th, at the I-Hotel

May 3rd – 3405 Siebel
June 7th – 4405 Siebel


Save the date:

Nov 17th – ACLU: ENGAGE