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Criminal Justice

GBIO Fights for Criminal Justice Reforms – and Wins – as Governor Baker Signs Historic Massachusetts Bill

GBIO Criminal Justice Reform team co-chairs Beverly Williams and Alan Epstein at the end of the day, but on to another chapter. 
 “When We Fight, We Win!”
Leaders from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and allies, chanted in victory at the Massachusetts Statehouse on April 13th as Governor Charlie Baker signed a sweeping criminal justice bill into law – the first of its kind in decades. Since 2015, GBIO has fought for strong reforms by targeting four issues designed to reduce barriers to a fair criminal justice system that have disproportionately affected poor people and people of color. All four of GBIO’s priority issues were included in the recent law.
GBIO’s priority issues include:
  • Reduction in the use of Mandatory Minimums for drug sentencing
  • Reduction of fines and fees for probation and parole
  • Changing bail requirements for those unable to pay
  • Regulation and reduction in the use of Solitary Confinement
Beverly Williams, co-chair of GBIO’s Criminal Justice Team said, “The new law is not perfect, but it is meaningful legislation for Massachusetts. Reform leaders worked tirelessly for 3 years to make this happen.”  Through legislator meetings, relationship building, and a series of large actions, GBIO helped shape comprehensive Criminal Justice reform bills that, despite early resistance, passed the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities in late 2017. A reconciliation bill proceeded behind closed doors for 4 months. 
The ultimate bill still included GBIO’s four issues, as well as many other issues of interest to GBIO and other allies including: CORI reform, raising the felony threshold from $250 to $1200, decriminalizing youth below 12 years of age, allowing juvenile records to be expunged after a period of time, medical release, and most importantly, data collection and reporting for more transparency. The final bill passed unanimously in the Senate (37-0) and nearly unanimously in the House (148-5) and was signed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. 
Co-Chair Alan Epstein said, “It is a huge step forward for the state in our efforts to reduce mass incarceration, eliminate racial disparities, reduce costs and introduce fairness, compassion and intelligence into our criminal legal system. Everyone in Massachusetts will benefit from what we did.”

Lake County United Builds Strong Support to Win Approval of 146-bed behavioral hospital in Waukegan

Vista Medical Center West in Waukegan, IL will be transformed into a 146-bed psychiatric hospital

Lake County United continues the fight to prevent those who are mentally ill from unjustly entering the criminal justice system and instead, helping those individuals get the treatment they need. Towards that effort, LCU has established a relationship with the CEO of U.S. HealthVest to continue to work together on broader mental health needs such as affordable housing and long-term treatment. In January, U.S. HealthVest was given unanimous approval to purchase a Waukegan, IL medical center and transform it into a state-of-the-art 146-bed psychiatric hospital that will provide services ranging from children to seniors as well as substance abuse treatment. Having all the elements of a crisis stabilization unit, this hospital is a key component to diverting mentally ill from jail.

FRVI’s Work on Crisis Intervention Leads to First Countywide Police Officers Crisis Intervention Training in Kane County

Kane County State's Attorney completed its first Crisis Intervention Team training for police officers.
For the past three years the Fox River Valley Initiative (FRVI) in Kane County, Illinois has been working with the Sheriff and State's Attorney to create a countywide Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program. In the summer of 2017, the States Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department submitted a proposed curriculum for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training to the state agency responsible for certifying law enforcement training. 
The County-developed curriculum allows CIT classes to be scheduled as needed in the county and in closer proximity for the officers participating. In October 2017, 26 officers from a variety of County law enforcement agencies completed their 40-hour training experience. Another class was scheduled for November and six classes are planned for 2018.
These 8 classes represent training for approximately 20% of the law enforcement personnel in the county, and it’s possible that nearly all of the 1,200 police officers in the Kane County jurisdictions will receive CIT training within the next five years. This victory is part of IL Metro IAF’s 3-part strategy for criminal justice reform in Illinois by overhauling CIT training, creating Crisis Stabilization Units, and expanding affordable permanent supportive housing.

United Power Wins Commitment from Evanston Chief of Police, Department of Health & Human Services to Help Move Forward on Creation of a Crisis Stabilization Center

Leaders of United Power join to announce results of the annual Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) review of four local police departments.
156 leaders from five United Power member organizations in the northern Cook County region gathered to announce the results of the annual Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) review of four local police departments and to align key allies to advance a crisis stabilization site in the northern Cook County region. 
As a result, The Evanston Department of Health & Human Services committed to co-convene a strategy with key players to create a crisis stabilization center, especially engaging the two major hospitals in the region. The Chief of Police in Evanston and Glenview agreed to participate in strategy sessions and announced their support for a crisis center. Turning Point, a local community mental health center, also announced their willingness to help establish a demonstration project to get the crisis center started. These commitments were made to United Power members and two key people from the two area hospitals who have yet to commit to advance the crisis stabilization ahead.
This effort is part of United Power and IL Metro IAF's overall fight to reduce incarceration for people with mental illness by seeking to increase CIT training of local police departments, improve access to crisis stabilization and increase affordable and supportive housing for long-term stability.