Governor Rauner Signs Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Legislation at TASC

(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, accompanied by bill co-sponsors State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) and State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92), signed bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation at TASC on March 10.

SB2872, also known as the Neighborhood Safety Act, increases trauma recovery support services for crime victims, strengthens judicial discretion to mandate individuals to probation and addiction treatment services in the community instead of prison, and expands opportunities for rehabilitative programming within Illinois prisons.

Watch a video of the March 10 bill signing here, including remarks from Governor Rauner; Senator Raoul; Representative Gordon-Booth; John Maki, executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; Lisa D. Daniels, founder of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; and Lenore Anderson, president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

The legislation advances recommendations of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform in its final report, including giving further discretion to judges regarding whether certain offenses may be appropriate for probation.

“By increasing access to rehabilitation services and alternatives to incarceration, this bill helps to support families, build communities, and reduce the number of people in prison and associated costs,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez, a member of the Governor’s commission, which seeks to reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

“TASC strongly supports these legislative reforms,” said Rodriguez. “We applaud the Governor, Senator Raoul, Representative Gordon-Booth, all the bill co-sponsors, and our community partners for their leadership in bringing about these important reforms.”

Governor Rauner signs SB2872 at TASC. Left to right: John Maki, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; IL Senator Kwame Raoul; IL Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth; IL Governor Bruce Rauner; Lisa D. Daniels, Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; Lenore Anderson, Alliance for Safety and Justice.

OP-ED: Revamping of Health Law Could Be Costly to Illinois

As Congress prepares to replace the Affordable Care Act, it is essential that the Medicaid expansion provision of the law be protected.

Any rollback of federal Medicaid coverage would be particularly harmful to Illinois, especially as our state grapples with budget deficits, an opioid epidemic, and an overburdened criminal justice system.

Under the ACA, Illinois was among the majority of states that expanded Medicaid, which provides federally-funded health insurance for low-income people. In a January letter to congressional leaders, the Rauner administration expressed concern about potential changes to Medicaid, pointing out that 3.2 million Illinoisans—almost one-quarter of the state’s population—are enrolled in coverage. 

Reducing Medicaid coverage would deprive Illinois of millions of dollars per year in federal support. As an example, in behavioral health services alone, the state would have to replace an estimated $80 million per year in federal Medicaid resources to pay for community-based substance use and mental health services that would support alternatives to incarceration and reentry initiatives.

Second, such changes would fly in the face of efforts to address the opioid epidemic that is devastating Illinois communities. Nineteen Illinois sheriffs, prosecutors, and police chiefs recently signed a letter to Congress urging action against any policy changes that would make it even harder for low-income individuals to access addiction and/or mental health treatment. Lack of treatment access impairs law enforcement’s ability to prevent overdose deaths and to make our communities safer.  

Finally, rolling back Medicaid coverage would hamstring Illinois’ successful bipartisan progress toward reforming the criminal justice system. Coverage for addiction and mental health services is essential to the state’s strategy for preventing crime, reducing recidivism, and avoiding the $41,000 per person annual average cost of incarceration for those whose non-violent offenses stem from untreated health conditions.

It is well recognized that there are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that must be overhauled. However, as changes are made, and to expound on what the Governor’s administration and criminal justice experts have written, it would be foolhardy and counter-productive if those changes include an attack on Medicaid coverage. Illinois can ill afford such a loss.

Pamela F. Rodriguez, President & CEO of TASC

TASC President Pam Rodriguez


Pamela F .Rodriguez is president and CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.) and a member of Governor Rauner’s Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

TASC Co-Convenes First-Ever National Summit on Deflecting People from Arrest

(Alexandria, VA) – Criminal justice, behavioral health, and public policy experts from across the country convened on March 1-2 for the first-ever national summit focused on strategies to deflect people with drug problems and/or low-level offenses away from the justice system before they enter it, and into behavioral health services instead.

Participants tweeted with the hashtag #Deflection2017, including a concise summary of the event from the Pretrial Justice Institute: “Big ideas. Big partners. Big conversation. #Deflection2017.”

Police, prosecutors, treatment/clinical experts, researchers, and representatives from national law enforcement and behavioral health associations discussed alternatives to arrest for low-level offenses, as well as new methods for confronting the opioid crisis and addiction, focusing on treatment-based solutions through which police can partner with behavioral health service providers in the community.

Hosted in Alexandria by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the two-day 2017 Deflection Summit was convened by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC and the Civil Citation Network. The summit was sponsored by C4 Recovery Solutions, IACP, and Ad Care Criminal Justice Services.

Pre-booking or pre-arrest diversion initiatives—also called deflection—offer practical strategies for reforming the front end of the criminal justice system and preventing cycles of arrest and incarceration of people with treatable substance use or mental health issues.

Depending on local community needs and behavioral health capacity, police deflection programs across the country have varying designs, but their goals are consistent: to continue to promote and enhance public safety while also responding more effectively to substance use and mental health problems, and to low-level offenses. These solutions help reverse the tide of people with nonviolent offenses entering the justice system.

In his March 2017 article in Police Chief MagazineJac Charlier, who directs national justice initiatives for the Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice at TASC, describes a number of deflection models currently in place throughout the country, including programs within the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) network; Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD); Baltimore’s Stop, Triage, Educate, Engage, Rehabilitate (STEER) program; citation in lieu of arrest; and drug overdose response teams, such as Lucas County, Ohio’s Drug Action Response Team (DART). Each of these programs, along with several others, brought forth their direct experience and insights at the deflection summit.

“Even a first-time arrest for a misdemeanor offense can end up having lifelong consequences, especially in employment,” said Greg Frost, president of the Tallahassee-based Civil Citation Network, a program offering counseling, education, and community service in lieu of arrest. “If people complete our program successfully, they can avoid an arrest record and the negative consequences that go with it.”

Robert Ryberg, CEO of C4 Recovery Solutions, an international not-for-profit working in substance use and addiction, explained, “Deflection is a key strategy for helping individuals access treatment services, especially those who have not yet self-identified as needing treatment and who are pursuing life strategies that often result in criminal activity. ”

“Police crisis intervention models for responding to mental health emergencies have been successful for many years, and deflection initiatives build from that experience,” added TASC’s Charlier. “Deflection programs are specifically designed to prevent people from going into the justice system when they can safely instead be connected directly to treatment services in the community. It’s a win-win for better safety in the community, for law enforcement, and for the people who get the help they need.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 144 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, including 91 from an opioid overdose.

“Especially in this time as our nation faces the opioid epidemic, we can save lives by deflecting people to treatment,” said Charlier.

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Lurie Children’s Hospital Launches Pilot Program to Help Curb Youth Violence in Chicago

News release from Strengthening Chicago’s Youth at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. TASC is proud to be a partner in this initiative.

(Chicago) –  Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, together with Cook County Juvenile Probation Department, TASC, the Illinois Collaboration on Youth and 10 community-based service providers, launched the Juvenile Justice Collaborative project. Up to 50 young people, ages 12 to 18, will be referred to the Collaborative to receive appropriate mental health and other services instead of spending time in the juvenile justice system.

“Everyone is asking for solutions to the city’s violence problem, and this initiative is a start,” said SCY Director Rebecca Levin, MPH. “Instead of putting these young people in detention, we want to keep them at home and give them the services that they need to get on a path to success.”

In the Juvenile Justice Collaborative, young people will be referred to a centralized intake and referral home which will assess their needs and risk level, and then be placed with the appropriate community-based provider. During the 6-month pilot program, referrals will come from probation officers. Examples of youth that could be referred include those who are arrested for car theft, drug possession or fighting. Re-arrests, school attendance and health status will be monitored and measured, and the program will be continually improved. In the future, the program could be expanded to accept referrals from other sources.

“We are pleased to support the launch of the Juvenile Justice Collaborative,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I have long advocated for, and invested in, alternatives to detention for our young people. The Collaborative offers a coordinated approach to curbing youth violence and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The 10 community service providers involved are Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center; BUILD, Inc.; Heartland (Human Care Services); Lawrence Hall; Maryville Academy; New Life/Urban Life Skills; SGA Youth & Family Services; UCAN; Youth Guidance; and Youth Outreach Services.

“These are our children, and we can pave a better path for them as a team and as a community,” said Hon. Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who oversees the Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department. “The partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital, and the credibility it brings to the table as a Chicago institution, is an excellent addition to our probation department’s community-based diversion efforts. This program fits perfectly into our mission as a juvenile justice system.”

The Juvenile Justice Collaborative model is built on an extensive body of research regarding the most promising strategies to interrupt the trajectory of youth violence. As gaps in service level and location are identified, targeted youth service providers will be recruited to join the Collaborative.

“Too often our young people cycle repeatedly through the justice system without getting the help they need; this approach provides a positive alternative to place them in programs that will help set them on a path to future success in life,” said Kimberly Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney.

The Juvenile Justice Collaborative is supported in part by the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation; Cook County Justice Advisory Council through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services; Michael Reese Health Trust; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; The Crown Family; and The Albert Pick, Jr. Fund. Past support provided by Polk Bros. Foundation.

February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week

(Chicago) – The National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) has announced that February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week 2017.

“At a time that our country is finally facing the science that has shown repeatedly that addiction is a treatable brain disorder and is moving to address it effectively in our medical systems and criminal justice systems, it is still failing to protect and promote the rights of the millions of children whose home life daily is overwhelmed by the misuse of alcohol and drugs,” said NACoA President and CEO Sis Wenger. “The people who should be nurturing and protecting them are, instead, consumed by an insidious disease that erodes family life and leaves their children to suffer in stifling silence, feeling alone and desperate. It is time, finally, for America to do the right thing for these most at-risk children.”

With age-appropriate help, children of addicted parents can find ways to resolve the stress in their lives, including exercises like mindfulness, through which they can learn strategies to reduce stress levels and begin to heal, reports NACoA.

“Just as children are affected by parents’ addiction, they also can be deeply affected by the recovery process,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who serves as vice chair of NACoA’s board of directors. “Everyone in a family affected by addiction needs healing. Like their parents in recovery, children may also need to learn new ways of coping, solving problems, and being happy.”

NACoA is the oldest national membership and affiliate non-profit organization committed to eliminating the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families.

TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) serves adults and adolescents who have substance use or mental health conditions and who are involved in justice or child welfare systems.

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Supporting Criminal Justice Reforms and Treatment Access: National Initiatives

(Chicago) – The majority of people who enter the justice system have a substance use or mental health condition, or both. In many cases, deflection and diversion to appropriate services can happen at the very front end of the system, even before arrest.

TASC and its Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) are active in a number of national initiatives to advance knowledge, policy, and practice to divert eligible participants away from the justice system and into appropriate services in the community.

Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Passed by Congress and signed into law in 2016, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is groundbreaking legislation that, among its many provisions, supports justice diversion practices, medication-assisted treatment, and naloxone for first responders to help curb the opioid overdose epidemic. TASC played a leading role in the bill’s inclusion of the first-ever Congressional authorization of funding for pre-booking police deflection programs. TASC and CHJ are partnering with the Addiction Policy Forum to help advance these innovative practices.

MD Magazine Peer Exchange Video Series on Addiction and Treatment in the Justice System

TASC’s Jac Charlier and Phillip Barbour are featured in a 14-part video series entitled Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Abuse Cases: A Path to Success. The series is produced by MD Magazine, a portal that provides physicians with clinical news, information, and resources designed to help them provide better care to patients. In the series, Charlier, Barbour, and other experts discuss an array of issues around drug treatment and medication-assisted therapies in justice and reentry settings.

Data-Driven Justice Initiative

The Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ) is a coalition of over 100 cities, counties, and states that have committed to employing data-driven strategies to divert individuals out of the justice system and into care, with a specific focus on the small percentage of people with substance use and/or mental health disorders who account for a disproportionate amount of health and justice resources. This groundbreaking effort is merging the fields of big data and criminal justice reform.

Working with the National Association of Counties, TASC is providing technical assistance to the State of Illinois and five small-to-medium counties outside of Illinois as they pursue their respective DDJ initiatives. TASC is helping these jurisdictions develop partnerships, identify core data sources, and plan for pilot programs to address local concerns.

Roll Call Videos for Law Enforcement

The Center for Health and Justice at TASC produced two videos to be used by local police departments during roll call to help law enforcement officers and leadership better understand the nature of addiction and improve community relations as a foundation for deflecting drug-involved individuals into treatment rather than arrest. This project was funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Following recent consulting work to help initiate Baltimore’s Stop, Triage, Educate, Engage, and Rehabilitate (STEER) program, Charlier recently was quoted in the Wall Street Journal regarding the value of law enforcement deflection initiatives. “The policing world, through deflection efforts, is understanding that access to treatment and follow-up to treatment is a legitimate approach to public safety,” he said.

Read more about TASC ‘s national work and other news here.

TASC’s Jac Charlier (far right) and Phillip Barbour (second from left) appear in MD Magazine Peer Exchange series.

TASC’s Jac Charlier (second from right) and Phillip Barbour
(second from left) in MD Magazine Peer Exchange series.

New Illinois Laws Remove Employment Barriers for People with Criminal Records

(Chicago) – Job seekers with past justice involvement have new opportunities for employment this year, thanks to a series of bills passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2016. These measures, which TASC supported, reduce or eliminate a number of employment barriers for individuals with past offenses.

These new measures include: restoring hiring discretion to employers by removing lifetime bans on jobs in schools and park districts; removing a similar ban on licensure to qualify for certain healthcare jobs; removing “red flags” on the State’s healthcare worker registry for jobs in the field that do not require licenses; and prohibiting professional licensure denials in seven specific occupations solely because the applicant has a criminal record unrelated to the occupation.

Together, these initiatives improve opportunities for people with prior justice involvement to work and earn income to support their families, pay taxes, and contribute to their communities.

“These laws help remove some of the lasting employment barriers that have hindered people long after they have paid their debt to society,” said Laura Brookes, TASC’s policy director. “We congratulate everyone who led and supported these measures.”

HB 4360, sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14) and State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-5), removes the lifetime ban on employment in schools for individuals with controlled substance convictions or misdemeanor cannabis, prostitution, or public indecency records, replacing the controlled substances ban with a seven-year waiting period. SB 3005, sponsored by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16) and Representative Cassidy, makes similar changes with regard to employment within local park districts. Further, the bill removes the permanent ban on park district jobs for people adjudicated for a drug offense as a juvenile.

SB 42 and HB 4515 remove barriers to jobs in healthcare for people with criminal records. SB 42 removes a lifetime ban on licenses for healthcare jobs from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) for individuals with certain offense records, replacing it with a three- or five-year ban instead, depending on circumstances. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Iris Martinez (D-20) and State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-78), enables IDFPR discretion to decide whether to grant a license in any particular case. Rep. Lilly and Senator Don Harmon (D-39) sponsored HB 4515, which changes the focus of the Health Care Worker’s Registry to an individual’s ability to work and not whether or not he or she has obtained a waiver, which in some cases has acted as a “red flag” hindering employment opportunities rather than opening them up. The law also removes misdemeanor cannabis crimes from the list of disqualifying offenses.

HB5973, sponsored by State Rep. Marcus Evans (D-33) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13), removes barriers to employment in barbering, cosmetology, esthetics, hair braiding, nail technology, roofing, and funeral service for people with criminal records.

Advocacy for the school, park district, and healthcare employment bills was driven by FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality), an initiative of the Community Renewal Society led by people with records and their families and faith communities to “create change and seek justice for people with records,” and RROCI (Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois), led by Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance. The occupational licensure bill was a joint initiative of the Safer Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute.