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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.

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.

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.


On August 15th, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) will hold the 2019 Forum for Safety and Liberation. At this annual event, WCRJ convenes local residents, community leaders and office holders for a public dialogue on how communities can create real safety by divesting from racialized policing and mass incarceration, and committing resources towards achieving a vision of equity, justice and liberation.

The 2019 Forum for Safety and Liberation will be held Thursday, August 15th from 6:00-8:00 pm at the AKArama Community Center, located at 6220 S Ingleside Ave in Chicago.

For decades, communities of color have witnessed an escalation in aggressive police occupation and mass incarceration. Rather than improving security at the local level, such tough on crime approaches have systematically undermined security and opportunity in Black neighborhoods. Moreover, this toxic investment in law enforcement and mass detention diverts public dollars away from critical services, such as childcare, schools, housing, jobs and healthcare, which would more effectively address communities’ most urgent safety needs.

At the 2019 Forum for Safety and Liberation, WCRJ will uproot the false rhetoric of law-and-order policymaking and the pernicious narrative of black criminality.Through grassroots leadership, we will reimagine what safe and free communities can look like, emancipated from police occupation and incarceration. 

After you've registered, take a moment to participate in our Safety and Liberation social media campaign. We're asking community members to help reimagine what safe and free communities can look like when we divest from racialized practices of police abuse and mass incarceration, and reinvest in initiatives that promote unity, strength and opportunity for all.

Here's how you can be part of the #SafetyIs social media campaign:

1. Fill out our #SafetyIs template (or create your own) telling us what REAL safety means to you. You can download the template here.

2. Take a photo holding the completed #SafetyIs template.

3. Share by tweeting or posting to Facebook and/or Instagram with the hashtag #SafetyIs or sending it to us via email.

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