Updated: Jul 28, 2019
This past week in Springfield, State Representative Lamont Robinson, in partnership with the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), introduced the Securing All Futures through Equitable Reinvestment (SAFER) Communities Act. This groundbreaking legislation, which was conceived of and advanced by WCRJ’s council of formerly incarcerated members, aims to reverse Illinois’ inhumane practice of mass incarceration and create high quality employment opportunities for job seekers with conviction records.
The SAFER Communities Act (HB 3120) proposes an achievable plan for Illinois to reverse mass incarceration, foster job creation, invest in local business, and grow the state economy. HB 3120 would implement retroactive reform of Illinois’ overly punitive and racially targeted mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The immediate surplus of public dollars secured through decarceration would fund a tax credit program, designed to incentivize local employers to hire applicants with conviction histories. The SAFER Communities Act offers Illinois a bold new vision of what neighborhood safety can look like when we divest from systems, such as prisons and law enforcement, that perpetuate racialized structural inequity, and reinvest in initiatives that foster opportunity and justice for all.
By enacting initial reform of the state’s draconian sentencing laws, HB 3120 would take a decisive step towards dismantling Illinois’ destructive and costly system of mass incarceration. The SAFER Communities Act proposes retroactive elimination of mandatory minimum sentences. Individuals currently detained in state prisons would be eligible for resentencing appeals in accordance with bill’s retroactive reform measures, returning thousands of Illinoisans to their families and communities.
The SAFER Communities Act would also promote 20,000 new high quality jobs for previously incarcerated workers in Illinois. HB 3120 would incentivize hiring by offering employers tax credits of up to $15,000 annually for employing previously incarcerated workers for new, full time, living wage positions for at least 24 months. Increased financial investment and elevated employment rates would also have resoundingly positive implications for local residents and businesses in communities most adversely impacted by decades of mass incarceration and systemic disinvestment.
This legislative session WCRJ will call upon lawmakers to withdraw taxpayer dollars from the state’s toxic prison system, and responsibly invest in the SAFER Communities employment program, which will create jobs, support Illinois businesses and boost local economies. As we advance HB 3120 through the state legislature, WCRJ is committed to amplifying the voices and priorities of individuals most directly affected by Illinois’ inhumane prison system. WCRJ gratefully acknowledges Representative Lamont Robinson and Raise the Floor for their invaluable dedication to bringing this critical piece of legislation to the Illinois General Assembly.
Yesterday afternoon, Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson handed down a verdict of not guilty in the case of three Chicago police officers accused of an attempted cover-up in the murder of seventeen year old Laquan McDonald. Despite overwhelming evidence that the officers filed fraudulent reports in order to forge justification for officer Van Dyke’s brutal killing of a teenager, the judge, in her hour-long ruling, deflected accountability away from law enforcement and proceeded to falsely malign the victim, Laquan McDonald, as a violent aggressor whose actions warranted execution by sixteen shots. Yesterday’s miscarriage of justice attests to the power and reach of the officer code of silence, which stretches its grasp beyond the police department, fixing its hold over city hall, the mayor’s office and the county courthouse.
In the days that followed the murder of Laquan McDonald, officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joseph Walsh, and former detective David March filed matching reports corroborating Van Dyke’s claim that on the night of the shooting, McDonald had presented an imminent threat, ignoring verbal commands and wielding a knife. What these cops did not anticipate, was that in the following year the Chicago Police Department, under mounting pressure from grassroots community activists, would be forced to release dashcam footage of the police killing. This video evidence irrefutably contradicted the officers' accounts. Over the course of the trial, prosecutors presented compelling testimony by fellow cops, supported by departmental video, police files and emails to conclusively demonstrate that the accused officers in fact submitted falsified reports in order to shield Van Dyke from accountability.
In the face of yesterday's failure of justice, CRGE remains committed to its demand for restitution for Laquan McDonald and for every life touched by police violence. Join us as we carry this fight for justice forward.
Call upon Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson (312-745-6100) to fire disgraced officer Thomas Gaffney.
Demand that Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans (312-603-6000) call upon circuit court judges to vote against the reappointment of Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson.
Bring #Justice4Laquan to the ballot box on February 26th by voting to unseat aldermen who refuse to support a democratically elected representative police board and a just police contract that ends the code of silence.
In the coming weeks, CRGE will launch a city wide voter mobilization campaign to elect municipal candidates that represent our values, reflect our communities and champion Black safety and liberation. Please contact us for more information about our electoral campaign and to learn how you can get involved in our work.
This afternoon Jason Van Dyke was found guilty in the murder of Laquan McDonald. Nearly three years after the city released dashcam footage of the horrific killing of a seventeen year old boy at the hands of an enraged and brutal cop, communities most impacted by police violence are now witnessing a rare glimpse at justice.
Dear Comrades and Allies,
This afternoon Jason Van Dyke was found guilty in the murder of Laquan McDonald. Nearly three years after the city released dashcam footage of the horrific killing of a seventeen year old boy at the hands of an enraged and brutal cop, communities most impacted by police violence are now witnessing a rare glimpse at justice. In the context of a racially prejudiced law enforcement system, which has for decades allowed officers to brutalize, reign terror and commit murder against black and brown bodies with impunity, this verdict represents an unprecedented step towards police accountability.
Today’s hard-earned victory was delivered not by the merits of local law enforcement and court systems, but rather in spite of their profound structural failures. This glimmer of justice was won by the courage and resolve of community members who gathered on Michigan Avenue, at city hall and at the court building demanding restitution for Laquan McDonald and for every life touched by police violence. Despite obstruction on the part of the Mayor, City Council and the State’s Attorney, the power of the people prevailed in forcing the state to hold itself accountable to communities of color.
Justice for Laquan begins today and culminates only when we dismantle the structural racism, brutality and corruption endemic to Chicago’s law enforcement system. Justice for Laquan means representative, democratically-elected community control over the police and an end to the officer code of silence. Justice for Laquan means a systematic divestment of mass policing and surveillance of Black residents and a reinvestment in schools, jobs, childcare and programs that restore equity. Justice for Laquan means universal safety and liberation for Black Chicagoans.
WCRJ is committed to continuing the fight to end racialized police violence. Please contact us for more information on how you can get involved in our work.
The Workers Center for Racial Justice