Champaign County ACLU Steering Committee
Minutes for Thursday, September 6, 2012
Those present: Bill Brown, Bob Illyes, Shirley Stillinger, Mark Leff, Stephen Portnoy, Mort Brussel, Marsha Woodbury, Esther Patt, Diana Lenik, Carol Leff
1. Introductions: Invited guest – Mike Richards, County Board dist 6 and chair of the Justice & Social Services Committee
2. County Board member Mike Richards participated in an extended discussion of the issues involved in adequate county jail facilities, programs and services. See appendix for a listing of the issues.
3. Minutes of June meeting approved
4. Treasurer’s report (approved as attached)
5. Announcements & Communications
a) Sept 21st “Alternatives to Incarceration”—a town-hall public forum organized by Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice." Urbana City Building, council chambers 6-8PM.
b)Oct 18th “Freedom to Read” at Urbana Free Library, Lewis Auditorium, 7-8:30—this year’s program focuses on the Tucson school district’s implementation of an Arizona state law that in effect closed down the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson—seven books were removed from classrooms and put in storage and the teachers reassigned (Note: teachers told by school administration not to use books in which “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.”
c) Meeting with Ed Yohnka & Law Students—Bill Brown, Mort Brussel and Carol Spindel attended for a discussion of law student involvement in voter rights issues. (see below under new business)
d) Immigration forum update –Three of the key issue areas that are being addressed:
1. a standardization of recognized identification across local law enforcement agencies for traffic with the goal of avoiding unnecessary and damaging incarceration; information program with the support of the Chicago Mexican consul to explain the validity of the Mexican government’s identity card—the matricular card. In this case, the focus is on proof of identity to avoid being jailed rather than on valid driver’s license, except when the use of a foreign driver’s license is valid here.
2. Legislation to allow undocumented immigrants a drivers’ license has been introduced again in the state legislature. (California has recently approved narrower legislation in this vein).
3. Training for programs to assist young undocumented immigrants in applying for the Obama administrations deferred action program.
6. Old Business
a) Tabling events – Pridefest covered, next Farmers’ Market Sept 15th
Focus on distribution of information on voter registration and national voter suppression issues (voter ID cases), in addition to the normal information distribution and membership materials. Students get free membership.
b) Website redesign update—we lost our web designer.
c) July 4th parade report (see previous minutes)
7. New Business“Jaywalking” arrest statistics—Bill Brown circulated figures on jaywalking tickets by Champaign and Urbana police since 2007, which shows a radical decline in the number of citations (hence validating Chief Connolly’s statement to us last spring that the Urbana department has made a concerted effort to concentrate on suspicious behaviors rather than more nebulous grounds for tickets. However the racial profile of the citations that are issued continue to go predominantly to African Americans. Bill circulated the statistics to the meeting, which Esther Patt also circulated on WUNA’s listserv.
Bill of Rights Celebration:
Sept 22, 2012
December 1st – ACLU: ENGAGE in Chicago (note the date change)
Local Law Enforcement issues discussed with Mike Richards
Racial Equity in Jury Selection –Mike Richards is on the county’s citizen advisory committee on jury selection, which has monitored jury selection for years and attempted to encourage adequate minority representation on juries. (See http://www.co.champaign.il.us/countybd/juryselect.htm)
The Jail Project, which Richards doesn’t think currently has the votes to proceed; in any it will still be several years before money would have been available. He also noted that this is not really a capacity issue, and that the jail population has been stable. The needs assessment contractor was chosen on a party line vote, but no report is expected before spring.
Some programmatic options and approaches to effective alternatives to jail (with particular reference to the fact that 75% of the county jail population is awaiting trial)
The Value of Work Release, which Sheriff Walsh has moved away, but which can help maintain ties with the community
McLean County’s rather innovative pretrial “probation” program, which provides supervised release for defendants who would otherwise be in jail because they can’t afford to post bond and whose behavior on pre-trial can become an additional factor for consideration in the subsequent proceeding.
Other options: drug court diversion programs, release on recognizance for good risks