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Updated: Jun 21, 2020

Last week the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) introduced two groundbreaking bills into the Illinois Legislature that aim to dismantle the state’s inhumane prison system, and equitably reinvest public resources back into our communities. In order to ensure that these critical measures advance in the General Assembly, WCRJ needs your support!

Take 30 seconds to send a pre-written message urging members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, as well as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, to endorse these important bills.

The SAFER (Securing All Futures for Equitable Reinvestment) Communities Act (HB 5394) offers Illinois a bold new vision of what community safety can look like when we divest from systems that perpetuate racialized structural inequity -- such as prisons and law enforcement -- and reinvest public dollars in initiatives that foster opportunity and justice for all. The measure would implement assertive reform of Illinois’ overly punitive and racially targeted sentencing laws. The public savings resulting from decarceration would directly fund a job creation program designed to spur hiring of applicants with conviction histories.

HB 5010 would amend state sentencing law to abolish extended terms, a draconian facet of Illinois' criminal code, which permits the courts to impose long stretches of additional prison time onto already excessive sentences. By offering judges wide discretionary power to lengthen sentences on the basis of a sweeping array of broadly defined and often subjective “aggravating” factors, extended terms magnify the impact of racial bias in our local court system.

Your voice is vital to the fight for racial justice and liberation in Illinois, and beyond.

Join WCRJ as we call upon elected officials in Illinois to undertake the necessary actions to reverse mass incarceration and promote equitable opportunity for all.


On Monday, October 28th, Illinois’ House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider a dangerous bill that would undermine safety, justice and liberation for young people across the state. HB 333 would implement harsh mandatory minimum sentences for minors charged with weapon possession and prohibit prosecutors from pursuing more humane and effective means of case resolution, such as conditional probation and restorative justice diversion programs. If enacted, this measure would fortify Illinois’ destructive and racially targeted youth prison pipeline, in which juvenile detention serves as an entry point into an inexorable cycle of adult incarceration.

Take a minute to send members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee a clear message: We will not stand by as you lock up our children.

In Illinois, mandatory minimum sentences have proved counterproductive in deterring crime. In fewer than two decades, the state’s General Assembly increased penalties for weapon possession six times, and local police and prosecutors targeted their enforcement efforts on communities of color with laser precision. Illinois’ draconian sentencing practices have not resulted in decreased crime rates, but rather prompted a threefold increase in the number of Illinoisans incarcerated for weapons charges. The collateral impacts on economic stability in majority-black neighborhoods have only served to further exacerbate racialized inequality and erode public safety.

Moreover, Illinois’ juvenile justice system is a pernicious agent of racialized mass incarceration statewide. Black children, who are grossly overrepresented in the juvenile detention system, are routinely funneled through the state’s youth facilities into adult prison.

In Illinois more equitable alternatives to youth incarceration have served to foster public safety. In recent years, as the state adopted more humane juvenile practices, such as case diversion and restorative justice programs, the youth detention rate fell by 62%. During this time, Illinois witnessed a steady statewide decrease in juvenile crime rates.

Join WCRJ as we take a stand against locking up our children and undermining the safety of our communities.

Take 30 seconds to send a one-click, prewritten email calling upon members of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee to block this legislation from moving forward.


Your voice is critical to advancing racial justice and liberation in Illinois.


This week the City Council’s Public Safety Committee advanced Mayor Lightfoot’s nominations for three open seats on the Chicago Police Board. The mandate to fill vacancies on the city’s most powerful police accountability panel presented the mayor with a prime opportunity to consummate one of her core campaign promises to communities long besieged by abusive law enforcement practices. As a candidate, Lightfoot vowed to dismantle Chicago’s pernicious system of racialized police brutality, which had been faithfully preserved under the administrations of former mayors Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley.

So it came as a stunning disappointment to local reform advocates when the mayor failed to endorse a single candidate who would offer a measure of independence or community perspective to the Chicago Police Board. Lightfoot opted instead for the retention of two of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s police board nominees, and the appointment of a high ranking operative in the Richard M. Daley administration.

The Chicago Police Board wields tremendous influence over city law enforcement, vested with the authority to nominate the police superintendent, establish department rules and oversee disciplinary action in cases of officer misconduct. However, in its capacity as appointed body, the panel has historically lacked the independence and grassroots representation required to eradicate corruption, violence and impunity within the Chicago Police Department.

Through the nomination process, the mayor and City Council implicitly bestow their staunch political loyalty to city law enforcement upon board members. As a result, the oversight commission has served as an obstruction rather than an instrument of progressive reform. 

The board consistently abstains from exercising its authority to issue policy recommendations to the police department, and in reviewing incidents of officer wrongdoing, seldom pursues justice. Even in the rare cases where the police superintendent calls for disciplinary removal, the committee overwhelmingly rules in favor of the officer. In 2018, the Chicago Police Board upheld the superintendent's recommendation for termination in only 38% of the cases it considered. 

Lightfoot's insider nominations stand as an endorsement of the police board status quo, and confirm a long held assertion among local reform activists: In order to advance safety, equity and justice for all Chicago neighborhoods, residents must assert direct community control over the police.

To this end, the Workers Center for Racial Justice is mobilizing voters to place a binding referendum on the 2020 ballot that would make the Chicago Police Board a directly elected representative body.

In order to achieve this, WCRJ calls upon our allies to help circulate petitions, check signatures, volunteer as a notary, and get the word out to friends and neighbors.

Step up in support of WCRJ's campaign to secure community control over the police.

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