In Illinois, People with Criminal Records May Register and Vote

(Chicago) – With Election Day approaching on November 6, states across the country have differing laws on the voting rights of people with criminal records.

Illinois citizens with a criminal record have the right to vote, as long as they are not serving time in jail or prison. Those being held in jail without having been convicted also have the right to vote.

Although Illinois citizens who have been convicted of a crime are not allowed to vote while incarcerated, they automatically regain their right to vote following release. Men and women who have criminal records and are living in the community, including those on probation or parole, retain the right to vote.

“In Illinois, if you’ve been arrested or incarcerated, that doesn’t mean you can’t vote,” said TASC Policy Director Laura Brookes.

Even after regular voter registration deadlines have passed (28 days prior to Election Day), Illinois law allows “grace period” registration and voting all the way up to and through Election Day. The Illinois State Board of Elections maintains a list of grace period registration/voting locations. The Cook County Clerk’s office maintains a similar list, as do other local county clerk’s offices.

Varying Laws across the US

Across the country, laws that restrict the voting rights of people with criminal records vary from state to state. According to The Sentencing Project, “an estimated 6.1 million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, a figure that has escalated dramatically in recent decades as the population under criminal justice supervision has increased.”

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, do not restrict voting rights based on convictions or incarceration. Thirty states deny voting rights to people on felony probation, and 34 states do not allow people to vote while on felony parole. Twelve states continue to deny voting rights to some or all people who have successfully fulfilled prison, parole, or probation sentences. In Florida, for example, individuals must wait five to seven years after a sentence has been completed, including parole and probation time, before they can apply to have their voting rights restored. Additionally, the application, once submitted, can take years to process.

Many advocacy groups have called for changes to laws that disenfranchise voters. One of the demands of the recent country-wide prison strike included restoration of voting rights to all confined citizens, as well as those who have served their sentences. “Prisoners are beginning to coalesce around the push to regain the vote as a means of forwarding the cause of prison reform,” reported The Guardian.

As criminal justice reforms have swept across the country, voting rights of people with criminal records are among the policy changes being considered. Florida, for example, will vote in November on whether to restore voting rights to people with prior felony convictions who have served their time.

Reforms in Illinois

There are efforts underway in Illinois, too, to protect voting rights for individuals with justice system involvement. This past spring, the Illinois legislature approved House Bill 4469 that would have “allowed an opportunity for eligible persons detained pre-trial to vote, and provide those leaving Illinois jails and prisons with information on voting rights for individuals living with records, including the basic knowledge that in Illinois, eligible citizens have their voting rights restored upon release,” according to ACLU Illinois. In August 2018, however, the Governor issued an amendatory veto on the bill, striking portions of it. To prevent the bill from dying altogether, the legislature will have to either vote with a three-fifths majority in each chamber to override the veto or with a simple majority to accept the amendment.

One local group, Chicago Votes, has gained national attention for its program within the Cook County Jail. Sanctioned by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, volunteers visit the jail and register people to vote. As of August 2018, over 1,800 individuals had been registered as a result of their work.

“Just because we’re in jail doesn’t define me or who I am,” said one of the individuals interviewed. “I’m still a human being, and I still have an opinion. I still would like to be heard in some type of way, especially a positive way, even with me being in the place that I’m in.”

For more information about registering and voting, download this flyer or see the Illinois State Board of Elections website or pamphlet.

State Capitol Building, Springfield, IL

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“Deflection” Grants Available to Illinois Law Enforcement-Community Partnerships, Proposals Due October 25, 2018

(Chicago) — New state funding is available to law enforcement working to divert people away from arrest and jail and into drug treatment programs. With $500,000 available, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) is now accepting grant proposals to support deflection initiatives in Illinois communities. Proposals are due October 25.

In August, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 3023, groundbreaking legislation that gives police and communities a valuable tool to use in responding to drug use and addiction. The Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act provides a roadmap for local law enforcement leaders to create collaborative programs that “deflect” individuals with substance use conditions away from the criminal justice system and into community-based treatment services. The Act authorized funding to support deflection program development.

“This funding demonstrates the strong commitment of the bill’s sponsors and the Governor to supporting police and communities as they work to help people gain immediate access to the substance use treatment they need,” said Laura Brookes, TASC policy director.

Law enforcement agencies are eligible to apply for awards of $20,000–$80,000 for use over a six-month period during the state’s current fiscal year (January 1–June 30, 2019). They must work in collaboration with one or more treatment providers and community members to establish a local deflection program, and develop a plan to coordinate program activities with community agencies, including substance use treatment providers, medical providers, supportive services, and relevant government agencies. Based on program performance and fund availability, ICJIA may recommend allocation of funding to support programming for an additional 12 months.

Applicants may request funds in one or more of five program model categories, based on local needs and resources:

  • Post-Overdose Response
  • Self-Referral Response
  • Active Outreach Response
  • Community Engagement Response
  • Officer Intervention Response

These five categories align with the overarching “pathways” by which police departments across the country are connecting people to community-based treatment and social services in emerging deflection programs, as identified last year by TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, and subsequently illustrated by the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC), a national alliance of practitioners in law enforcement, behavioral health, community, advocacy, research, and public policy working to strategically widen  community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion.

To learn more about how TASC may be able to assist with your community’s deflection efforts, contact Jac Charlier, executive director of TASC’s Center for Health and Justice and co-founder of PTACC.

 

New Winners’ Circle in Bloomington; Replicating the Model Nationally

(Chicago) — On November 6, a new Winners’ Circle will begin in Bloomington, IL. Winners’ Circles are peer-led support groups for people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction and who also have been on probation or incarcerated.

The trauma of incarceration, stigma of a criminal record, and associated collateral consequences (such as barriers to housing and employment) create specials needs and challenges for formerly incarcerated people who are in recovery. Winners’ Circles help address these unique needs by offering safe, positive, non-judgmental places where participants can develop healthy lifestyles and share support, encouragement, and success with others at similar places in their lives. Related groups, called Inner Circles, provide this same support to individuals who are incarcerated.

“The goal of the Winners’ Circle is to fill a void as people reenter their communities after they’ve been incarcerated,” said Millicent Lewis McCoy, director of corrections transition programs at TASC. “Winners’ Circles help participants build a strong network to support them in living a substance- and crime-free life.”

The Bloomington Winners’ Circle will meet on Tuesdays 5PM to 6PM, beginning November 6. Sessions will be held at the Family Community Resource Center, 509 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL. Family members and friends are welcome.

A Nationally Replicated Model of Peer Support

Originally established in Connecticut in 1988, the Winners’ Circle model has since been replicated in several states. Each Winners’ Circle is designed to be independent and self-sustaining. In Illinois, TASC helps guide the development of Winners’ Circles by providing training for Winners’ Circle leaders, and by working with community partners to establish locations for meetings.

While facilitating the growth of Winners’ Circles in Illinois, TASC also provides information and training to support their development in other states.

In June, justice stakeholders from Columbus, IN, came to Chicago to meet with TASC to learn more about Winners’ Circles. Rob Gaskill, director of residential services for Bartholomew (IN) County Jail, county jail staff, and graduates of the county’s women’s reentry program—WRAP (Women Recovering with A Purpose)—observed both Winners’ Circle and Inner Circle meetings. Inspired by what they learned and observed, they are now creating a Winners’ Circle in their community.

“It’s gratifying to see Winners’ Circle spread to many communities,” said Toy Beasley, recovery support coordinator at TASC. “These groups provide support, hope, and healing that people might not be able to get elsewhere in their lives.

“When people have lost hope, Winners’ Circle can help them find it.”

To find out more about Winners’ Circles in Illinois, please contact Toy Beasley at tbeasley@tasc.org or 309-868-0681, or at TASC’s toll-free number: 855-827-2444.

To learn about training opportunities for Winners’ Circle facilitators outside of Illinois, contact Phillip Barbour, TASC master trainer.

Left to right: Jessica Olson, WRAP; Leslie Harden, WRAP; Angela Smith, Bartholomew County Community Corrections; Maria Sandoval, WRAP; Bethany Peetz, Bartholomew Community Corrections; Deborah Shannon, WRAP; Geri Lynne Cooper, Winners’ Circle Illinois; Rob Gaskill, Bartholomew County Community Corrections

 

 

Delegation of Ugandan Juvenile Justice Leaders Visits TASC

(Chicago) – A delegation of juvenile justice leaders from Uganda visited TASC on September 24 for an exchange of ideas and strategies for serving youth who come in contact with the justice system.

As part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State, the delegation of six leaders representing the Ugandan high courts, public prosecutions, and non-government organizations (NGOs) visited TASC to learn about justice reform, community-based alternatives to detention, and reentry programs.

The discussion, led by George Williams, vice president of community and government affairs for TASC, highlighted key approaches for diversion and reentry programs, as well as common challenges in providing opportunities for youth.

“The most important thing we do is engage with the youth,” said Anthony Harden, TASC juvenile justice services administrator. He emphasized the critical role and dedication of TASC care coordinators like Breanna Hollie, who co-presented with Harden. “We try to find something positive that youth will connect with.”

For instance, Harden noted, if a youth is doodling while TASC is conducting an assessment, that’s an opportunity to find out about the youth’s interest in art.

“In that case, we’ll find resources on art to support their interest,” said Harden. “We’ll learn where they grew up, what they want to do, where their strengths are… And we’ll connect them with mentors. We help youth understand that we work with the justice system, but we’re not the justice system. Our role is to be there for the youth, to be their advocates.”

TASC’s services for youth include prevention programs, diversion alternatives, court services, and post-detention reentry.

“We are committed to ensuring that there are alternatives at every point in the system,” said Alicia Osborne, director of operations for TASC.

The discussion highlighted opportunities such as strength-based approaches and balanced and restorative justice (BARJ), as well common challenges for youth who come in conflict with the law, whether in the U.S. or Uganda. Many come from environments of poverty, where family and social structures have been weakened, and where opportunities for work and education are lacking. In Uganda, delegates noted, in addition to facing poverty, children may be detained hundreds of kilometers from home, where they are far from family and may encounter language barriers as well.

While challenges are ever-present, the Ugandan delegates and TASC leaders shared a commitment to solutions that give youth and their families the opportunity to succeed.

“We can’t necessarily change the community environment,” acknowledged Williams. “But we can help our clients develop the protective skills and mindset to help them as they navigate back to their community. We help them find out, ‘What is my personal capital so I can change my relationship with the community?’”

The International Visitor Leadership Program is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Past participants in the program include 35 current and 300 former chiefs of state or heads of government. In partnership with IVLP, the visit was facilitated by WorldChicago, a nonprofit organization that promotes citizen diplomacy and international exchange.

 

Ugandan delegation visits TASC (24 Sept. 2018). Back row, left to right: Daphne Baille, TASC; Anthony Harden, TASC; Marion Sunday Ben-Bella; Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Jacquelyn Akol Okui, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Judge Margaret Mutonyi, Republic of Uganda; George Williams, TASC; Breanna Hollie, TASC; Alicia Osborne, TASC. Front row, left to right: Samali Wakooli, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Uganda; Winfred Adukule Meuter, Free Child Uganda; Lillian Alum-Omara, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Uganda.

Supporting International Efforts to Prevent Overdose and Treat Substance Use Disorders

(Chicago) – TASC’s work in Illinois is helping to inform international strategies to save lives and divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

On August 20, TASC hosted visiting dignitaries from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) for discussions on criminal justice responses to the opioid crisis and alternatives to incarceration, based on the recognition that international supply reduction strategies can inform and support, and be supported by, local efforts across the country.

INL helps countries across the globe strengthen their criminal justice systems in order to reduce the entry of illegal drugs and crime in the U.S.

INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James A. Walsh and Michele Greenstein, acting director of INL’s Office of Criminal Justice and Assistance Partnership (CAP), were welcomed by TASC President Pam Rodriguez, who facilitated a roundtable discussion with local criminal justice leaders, including Judge LeRoy Martin, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Cook County Circuit Judge Charles P. Burns, Judge Lawrence Fox, director of specialty courts for Cook County, and Chief Eric Guenther of the Mundelein Police Department. Leaders presented a continuum of criminal justice diversion strategies and alternatives to incarceration that exist in Cook and Lake counties for people who have substance use disorders.

Following the roundtable discussion, Walsh and Greenstein visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center, meeting with TASC staff as well as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose website offers information on array of resources on overdose prevention and recovery.

“We are grateful and proud to be able to show our collective work in Illinois, knowing that lessons learned here can benefit other nations across the globe,” said Rodriguez. “We also recognize that much work lies ahead in continuing to reduce the numbers of people entering the justice system, and in increasing treatment and recovery options for people and communities affected by substance use disorders.”

Today, communities across the globe are recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day, observed annually on August 31 to raise awareness around overdose prevention, reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends who have lost loved ones to drug overdose.

INL dignitaries and Sheriff Dart at TASC Supportive Release Center, August 20, 2018. (l. to r.) Michele Greenstein, INL; Alicia Osborne, TASC; INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James Walsh; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; Dr. Jane Gubser, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Joe Ryan, Cook County Sheriff’s Dept.; Robin Moore, TASC.

 

Governor Rauner, Illinois Lawmakers Weigh in on New Pre-Arrest Diversion Legislation

(Chicago) — Illinois lawmakers weighed in on the significance of Senate Bill 3023, signed on Wednesday by Governor Bruce Rauner. The first state legislation to authorize a comprehensive array of pre-arrest diversion program approaches, it supports law enforcement officers in creating handoffs to community-based treatment when they see people who have overdosed or are showing other signs of substance use disorder.

“Our police officers want to help us solve the problem, not just punish people,” said Rauner. “This effort builds community and allows our law enforcement and peace officers a way to give people help instead of a criminal record.”

The legislation supports “deflection” of individuals with substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services. Traditionally, law enforcement has been faced with two options: arrest or walk away. Deflection provides a third option: connecting people to treatment and/or other social supports.

Chief sponsors Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and Representative Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle) spoke of its significance.

“We know the factors involved with treating mental health and substance abuse are multilayered and complex,” said Bush. “Early detection is key, as both issues can manifest into a lifetime of challenges if left untreated.”

“Substance abuse contributes to crime, hurts Illinois families and deteriorates communities,” said Evans. “Our Illinois law enforcement and human services leaders understand this reality, and I applaud their support of a solution in the form of SB 3023. I am happy to see this community- and family-improving idea become law.”

The bill originated based on the successes of the Safe Passage program in Dixon and A Way Out in Lake County, Illinois.

Demmer, whose district includes Dixon, lauded the role of the Safe Passage program as a model for the legislation. “Dixon has had great success with 215 people placed directly into treatment over incarceration,” he said. “This has resulted in a 39 percent reduction in arrests for drug crimes, as well as properly deflecting people to get the medically driven substance abuse help they need instead of making it difficult for them to get help because of a criminal record.”

“This new law focuses on preventive measures in dealing with the opioid crisis and other substance abuse issues,” said Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon). “It partners law enforcement agencies with licensed substance abuse service providers to treat individuals with substance abuse problems before they are arrested. Getting these individuals help before they enter the jail system will make it easier for them to resume their daily routines later without a criminal record, and will reduce the burden on local jail and court systems.”

“Deflection programs provide police officers with another option when dealing with someone they believe may have opioid or other substance abuse problems,” said Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), who also sponsored the bill. “Continuously arresting and locking up such troubled individuals rarely fixes their underlying issue. It is my hope that with these deflection programs, we can get people the treatment and help they need to get better.”

Advancing Pre-Arrest Diversion in Illinois and Nationally

Leaders of the Safe Passage and A Way Out initiatives — Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss and Police Chief Eric Guenther of Mundelein in Lake County, respectively — worked with TASC to spearhead the legislation.

“Senate Bill 3023 is the first of its kind legislation and recognizes a paradigm shift in law enforcement’s approach to those who struggle with substance use,” said Guenther. “I am very proud to have been a part of creating this legislation.”

“This is a hopeful day for Illinois law enforcement and those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Langloss. “The national opioid epidemic continues to impact every community. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year to drug overdose. Behind every death there is a family. With this bill, the police now have new programs at their disposal that save lives and make our communities safer.

“We saw the successes of Chiefs Guenther and Langloss as meaningful and timely, and we wanted to help bring these opportunities for treatment to residents across the state,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “From our work in the justice system, from police to parole and all points between, we’ve seen that public policy can serve as a launching pad for significant progress. This legislation is an example of that.”

As police departments across the country began developing programs in response to the opioid crisis at an increasing pace, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice identified five overarching pathways by which law enforcement was diverting or “deflecting” people away from arrest and into treatment, housing, and social supports in the community. Building from this work, Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at TASC, co-founded the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC), a national alliance of practitioners in law enforcement, behavioral health, community, advocacy, research, and public policy working to strategically widen  community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion.

PTACC has illustrated these five pathways by which police departments are making connections to community-based treatment and social services; law enforcement and community partners can choose any or all of these pathways based on local needs and resources.

“Based on TASC’s and PTACC’s work identifying, communicating, and shaping deflection concepts and strategies nationally, it’s gratifying to see my home state of Illinois take the lead in shaping this public policy,” said Charlier. “We are seeding a national movement for the newly emerging field of deflection and pre-arrest diversion, which promises to reshape the relationship between law enforcement, behavioral health, and our communities to better respond to people with serious mental illness, save lives in the opioid epidemic, make our neighborhoods safer by reducing crime, and allowing police to better focus their resources on crime fighting.”

Governor Signs Illinois Law Enforcement Diversion Bill, First of Its Kind in the Nation

(Springfield) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed groundbreaking legislation on Wednesday that authorizes local law enforcement leaders and community partners to create local programs that “deflect” individuals who have substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services.

Senate Bill 3023, also known as the Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act, sponsored by Senators Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) and Representatives Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle), encourages partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members to guide the development of deflection programs in their communities.

As part of a package of critical legislation to support access to treatment for substance use and mental health disorders, Governor Rauner also signed SB682, which removes prior authorizations for certain levels of substance use disorders; SB1707, which adds critical parity enforcement and transparency provisions to the state law; SB2951, which pilots an early mental health treatment program, and SB3049, the Medicaid Telehealth Act.

“The members of the General Assembly delivered great results,” said Governor Rauner at a signing ceremony at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield. “Illinois is now a proud leader in these efforts. I’m honored and proud to sign these five bills.”

Among the law enforcement leaders attending the signing ceremony were Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther and Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss, who, along with TASC, helped conceptualize SB3023. The legislation was informed by Guenther’s and Langloss’ direct experience leading pre-arrest diversion programs (also known as law enforcement “deflection” programs), as the police departments of Mundelein and Dixon already operate such programs.

“Senate Bill 3023 is the first of its kind legislation and recognizes a paradigm shift in law enforcement’s approach to those who struggle with substance use,” said Guenther. “I am very proud to have been a part of creating this legislation.”

“This is a hopeful day for Illinois law enforcement and those suffering from substance use disorder,” added Langloss. “The national opioid epidemic continues to impact every community. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year to drug overdose. Behind every death there is a family.

“With this bill, the police now have new programs at their disposal that save lives and make our communities safer,” he said.

“With the passage of Senate Bill 3023, Illinois is leading the way on police deflection to substance use treatment,” said TASC Policy Director Laura Brookes. “These programs provide an immediate warm hand-off to treatment, and give police a new tool for getting people the help they need even before crisis sets in.”

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) will lead the development of a set of minimum data to be collected in such programs and, for those that receive funding, serve as a performance measurement system.

“The data collection provisions mean that departments will be able to improve their programs and allow equal access to them regardless of race or ethnicity or any other factors,” said Brookes.

“We thank Governor Rauner, the bill’s sponsors, our partners in law enforcement, and all who supported this landmark legislation.”

Among the many groups filing their support for the bipartisan legislation were the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Illinois State University Police, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Chicago Urban League, and the City of Chicago Heights.

SB3023 becomes effective on January 1, 2019.

August 22, 2018 signing of Illinois Senate Bill 3023 (l. to r.): Chief Steve Howell (Dixon Police Dept.), Laura Brookes (TASC), Chief Brian Fengel (Bartonville Police Dept. and President of IL Assn. of Chiefs of Police), IL Governor Bruce Rauner, Chief Eric Guenther (Mundelein Police Dept.), Chief Dan Ryan (Leland Grove Police Dept.), Danny Langloss (City of Dixon), and Jeff Ragan (Dixon Police Dept.)

August 22, 2018: Governor Bruce Rauner signs five bills supporting access to substance use and mental health treatment, flanked by advocates including Sara Howe (left), CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health.