Community Announced Court Watch Program to Keep Cook County Courts and States Attorney Accountable
Community and faith leaders from the Reclaim Campaign, together with Chuy Garcia and Cook County Commissioners, announced a community court watch program that will ensure bond court and pretrial services reforms are actually implemented.
Chicago, IL, July 9, 2015 (Newswire.com) - Community and faith leaders from the Reclaim Campaign, together with Chuy Garcia and Cook County Commissioners, announced a community court watch program that will ensure bond court and pretrial services reforms are actually implemented. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans committed to changes in bond court and pretrial services rules that would significantly reduce the county jail’s population, a large portion of which is held for nonviolent drug charges. States Attorney Anita Alvarez has claimed that her office supports increased diversion and bond reform but has refused to release data about their program or to meet with advocates.
“This initiative will help us with the analysis, statistics and recommendations so that the Cook County President, Chief Judge and State’s Attorney will be aware of what changes they can make to reduce the number of detainees in the county jail,” said Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia.
In recent years, approximately 100 people appear in Cook County Bond Court daily. A judge hears a few basic facts about the case and decides, sometimes in a matter of seconds, whether the person can go home or stay in jail until the case is resolved. Often nonviolent detainees sit in the jail for weeks or months simply because they cannot afford to pay bail.
On July 24, 2014, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans attended a public meeting with over 500 community leaders where he committed to implement significant reforms to bond court and pretrial services. If fully implemented, these reforms could result in a significant reduction of the jail population.
“Every day we see the effects of unjust incarceration in our community,” said Rev. Robbie Craig a leader with Community Renewal Society from New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson. “Young men and women of color are being targeted by the criminal justice system while real violence prevention efforts are starved for funding. This has to stop!”
Reducing the jail population means that the county can finally shift resources away from a system that overly incarcerates low-income people of color and invest in community-based violence prevention, mental health programs and substance abuse treatment.
To verify that reforms to bond court and pretrial services are occurring, the Reclaim Campaign will conduct an 8 week court watching initiative in July and August 2015. Volunteers will complete a worksheet recording the outcome of every case that is heard in bond court during their watching shift. Specifically, volunteers will record what type of bond was set, how much it was, whether chargers were for a violent offense, when the State’s Attorney objected and the extent to which a risk assessment score and mitigation was presented to the bond court judge.
“I am participating in the court watching project because it is not fair that people, especially people of color, are kept in jail simply because they do not have money,” said Victoria Crider, a leader with Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY). “Our public officials need to be held accountable to real reform.”
On September 10, at the conclusion of the 8 week court watching program, the Reclaim Campaign will analyze the data and prepare a report that will be presented to Chief Judge Tim Evans, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Learn More: http://www.communityrenewalsociety.org/%5Bmenu-link-parent-path-raw%5D/take-action