Leaders in Transforming Health and Justice Recognized at TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon

(Chicago) – Nearly 300 guests attended TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon in Chicago on December 14 to honor Jessica Hulsey Nickel and Howard A. Peters III, respected champions of health and justice reforms.

Speakers shared inspiring tributes and echoed the importance of uplifting people who need help, and creating a society where fairness and access to health are the norms.

“I know firsthand the impact that substance abuse can have on individuals’ lives and the collateral damage that can occur among families when a loved one has the illness of addiction,” said TASC Board Vice Chair and Event Committee Chair John Zielinski in opening the event at the Westin Michigan Avenue. “I also know and believe in the importance of second chances. People can and do recover.”

TASC Board Chair Michelle Montgomery spoke of the importance of TASC’s work in diverting people who have with underlying substance use or mental health problems away from the justice system, and instead into treatment and other services in the community. She emphasized the need to address racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, where people of color are more likely to be arrested, to be offered a plea that includes prison time, and more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans who commit the same offenses.

“This is devastating, and it is wrong,” said Montgomery. “We know that once an individual comes into contact with the justice system, it becomes exponentially harder to recover.

“Incarceration affects not just the individual—it severely disrupts whole families through multiple generations, devastating entire communities. As I speak, we are seeing this both in Illinois and across the nation. That is why I believe so strongly in TASC’s work in disrupting these cycles.”

Howard Peters Accepts TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership Award

With a mission of addressing these inequities, TASC presents its Justice Leadership Award each year to a leader who has demonstrated a commitment to creating fairer, more equitable systems of justice.

With a long career of service leadership, including as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and later as the first secretary of what became the Illinois Department of Human Services, Howard Peters, TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership honoree, “has the perspective and vision of a leader who has worked on all sides of the issues we address, from criminal justice to human services to healthcare,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez in presenting the award.

It was under Peters’ leadership of IDOC in the early 1990s that TASC began to offer pre- and post-release case management services for individuals leaving certain state prisons in Illinois, noted Rodriguez. Later, as the head of DHS, he oversaw all state-administered human services, including substance use and mental health, employment programs, youth services, and other programs that address poverty.

“He understands the interconnection of all these issues, and how the solutions to problems need to be comprehensive and inclusive,” said Rodriguez, who served alongside Peters on the recent Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. “When he would speak, he would change the conversation. He would ask questions that would cause people to think differently and strategize in new ways… His steady voice, deep compassion, and consistent leadership are part of what shape the criminal justice reforms happening in Illinois today.”

In accepting TASC’s award, Peters gave special credit those who shaped his early years, and who instilled in him a sense of obligation to do good in the world.

“Whatever are our accomplishments, no matter how grand or modest, they aren’t ours alone,” he said, sharing stories of how he was influenced and inspired by his mother, his grandmother, an influential second grade teacher, an inspiring college mentor, and his wife of 50 years, Beverly Peters.

“We are obligated to serve, we are obligated to support good work,” he said. “And that is why I am proud today to be in this room with you—because you are engaged in important work, you are supporting work that will determine whether children across Illinois will survive… and how well they will survive, and whether we will have a society in which we can take pride.”

Jessica Nickel Accepts TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Leadership Award

Creating such a society is also the life’s work of Jessica Nickel, TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Award Honoree and founder of the national Addiction Policy Forum.

Nickel played a critical leadership role in shaping and advancing federal legislation to improve justice and support recovery, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which supports a wide range of responses to addiction, including criminal justice diversion initiatives, and the Second Chance Act, which has transformed the landscape of reentry programs across the country since it was signed into law in 2008.

“I have known Jessica for more than a decade, and from the start, she impressed me with her sense of urgency, her deep commitment, and her unwavering belief that we can – and must – give hope and help to families that are dealing with addiction,” said Rodriguez.

In accepting the award, Nickel noted that the Second Chance Act, co-sponsored by Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis and Ohio Congressman (now Senator) Rob Portman, came about with the intent to re-envision how people reenter the community after jail and prison. Through this work, Nickel was introduced to TASC leaders Rodriguez, then vice president of TASC; TASC Vice President of Community and Government Affairs George Williams; and Melody Heaps, then president (now retired) of TASC.

“I’m proud of that work, and grateful and proud of the cooperation with TASC,” said Nickel.

Modeling this collaborative model of engagement that propelled the ongoing success of the Second Chance Act, Nickel is dedicated to changing the way society responds to addiction.

“Let’s re-envision how we respond to addiction in this country,” said Nickel. “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with one drug against the other… or playing that sort of favorite child of which response we’re going to work on—treatment or prevention or recovery or criminal justice—let’s put our heads together and think of something different.”

With this commitment, Nickel has assembled leading experts who understand addiction as a public health issue, and, in a short time, has built a strong and growing coalition of families, advocates, policymakers, community leaders, and corporations who share in this commitment.

“Through her voice, her organizing ability, her passion, and her impressive, first-hand knowledge of how to make major policy changes happen, Jessica is helping communities across the country make strides against addiction and its consequences. She’s bringing forth practical solutions… to help families and communities that want to know what works and what they can do,” said Rodriguez.

Among the luncheon guests were three past TASC Leadership Award recipients: retired WGN News Anchor Robert Jordan (2013 Public Voice Leadership Award), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (2011 Public Voice Leadership Award), and Heaps (2010 Justice Leadership Award), who founded TASC as an Illinois nonprofit organization in 1976.

Also recognized were TASC’s 2017 event sponsors: elite sponsor Alkermes; select sponsors: John Greene and William Blair; and friend of TASC sponsors Yes Lifecycle Marketing, Gateway, BMO Harris Bank, HAS, Janssen, Meridian Health, and Rosecrance; with thanks also to numerous advocate sponsors, community sponsors, and raffle prize donors.

2017 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon — Back row (l. to r.): Sue Thau, Toni Preckwinkle, Jessica Nickel, Pam Rodriguez. Front row: Howard Peters IV, Howard Peters III, Beverly Peters. (Photo by Uk Studio, Inc.)

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Illinois Employers No Longer Allowed to Ask About Criminal Histories on Job Application Forms

(Chicago) – As of January 1, 2015, a new Illinois law effectively eliminates questions from private businesses’ job applications about whether applicants have a criminal history.

The law requires an employer or employment agency to wait until an applicant has been selected for an interview or until after a conditional job offer has been extended before inquiring about, considering, or requiring disclosure of criminal history.

House Bill 5701, sponsored by State Representative Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) and State Senator Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), passed the State legislature with bi-partisan support and was signed by Governor Pat Quinn on July 21.

A similar requirement for employment with State government was executed in Illinois in 2013 through executive order.

Prospects for economic stability are often severely hampered by a criminal record, which remains in place long after a probation or prison sentence is served. These records regularly come with a lifelong struggle to find a job.

“Each year, thousands of motivated men and women throughout Illinois are denied consideration for jobs before they are interviewed and before their qualifications are evaluated, often because they had to check the box next to a question asking if they have a criminal record,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “This is no small problem. One in four adults in the U.S. has a criminal record.”

Research shows that the negative effects of a criminal record are significantly more pronounced for African Americans, and that personal contact appears to mitigate the negative impact of a criminal record.

Several other states have enacted similar “Ban the Box” laws, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

 

IL State Sen. Mattie Hunter, Walgreens’ Steve Pemberton to Receive TASC 2014 Leadership Awards

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

(Chicago) – Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton will receive TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 10. 

“By their leadership and examples, Senator Hunter and Mr. Pemberton show us what public service looks like,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “They are powerful advocates for children and families, and we are honored to present them with our 2014 leadership awards.”

Senator Hunter, who will receive TASC’s Justice Leadership Award, is a consistent champion for addiction treatment and fair criminal justice policies. As a State Senator since 2003, she has led efforts to assure funding for addiction treatment, especially within challenging fiscal environments. She also chaired the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission and led its investigation of drug policies that have resulted in the over-representation of minorities in Illinois’ courts and prisons.

Most recently, Senator Hunter secured successful passage in the General Assembly of legislation designed to expand the use of criminal justice diversion programs that connect individuals to community-based services. This bill is a step forward in enacting “No Entry” policies to reverse the flood of people with non-violent offenses entering the justice system.

“We are grateful to Senator Hunter for her leadership in confronting tough challenges,” said Rodriguez. “Whether securing funding for human services or advocating for policies that apply justice more fairly, Senator Hunter has been a trusted friend to the families and communities we seek to serve.”

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC will present its 2104 Public Voice Leadership Award award to Steve Pemberton, chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Pemberton spent much of his childhood as a ward of the state of Massachusetts. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home (2012) describes his difficult path through foster care and determined search for family.

Pemberton’s story underscores the importance of connected and accountable systems of care, the value in programs and services that protect and support children, and the essential inclusion of opportunities to intervene with parents struggling with substance use disorders or mental illness.

“Mr. Pemberton’s painful childhood journey is one that too many children experience,” said Rodriguez, “and we share in his deep commitment to continually improve the services and systems that affect the lives of vulnerable children.

“There is great hope in his story as well,” she added. “We can also help people come to healing as adults. That is why we do what we do.”

Each year, TASC recognizes outstanding leaders who have demonstrated innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges. The agency’s 2014 luncheon will take place Wednesday, December 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at The Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Find out more about the luncheon and sponsorship opportunities and order tickets online. Please call (312) 573-8201 for additional information.

New Illinois Law Adds Hispanic/Latino Category to Criminal Justice Data Collection

(Chicago) – Illinois has become one of only a handful of states to adopt standards requiring law enforcement to track Hispanic/Latino arrest data.

Only two states (New York and California) currently track such data, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Along with the 48 states that do not, neither does the FBI, rendering impossible a reliable determination by government officials, research analysts, service providers, and communities alike of how many people identifying as Hispanic/Latino are being arrested. Currently, these arrests are likely being counted in “white” and “African-American” categories.

However, on August 23, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill to change that situation in Illinois.

Quinn signed legislation, Senate Bill 1598 (PA 098-0528), sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), requiring that a “Hispanic or Latino” field be included in the list of race categories used by Illinois law enforcement, the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. The law also requires a good-faith effort to collect race and ethnicity information as self-identified by individuals involved in the system.

“Having incorrect or unreliable data is a problem when policymakers attempt to measure and address racial or ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “Without a clear picture of who is arrested for any particular crime and what the trends show in the aggregate, useful policy responses are difficult to shape.”

Rodriguez noted that there are 52 million Latinos in the United States, and yet national, state, and local criminal justice systems are overwhelmingly unable to track, for example, whether Hispanics are targeted for drug possession arrests at disproportionate rates compared to other groups.

The new law is an initiative of the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force, which was a state panel charged with determining a practical method for the standardized collection and analysis of data on the racial and ethnic identity of arrestees by State and local law enforcement agencies.

“This law will give Illinois policymakers, researchers, and communities an important tool to analyze arrest data, and to consider these data in creating appropriate community interventions, diversion strategies, and public safety responses,” Rodriguez added.

Enlace Chicago, the Illinois Latino Family Commission, and TASC’s Center for Health and Justice collaborated to advance the proposal. The bill takes effect on January 1, 2015.

Twitter @TASC_CHJ

Our View: End Racial Disproportionality in Drug Arrests, Expand Interventions for All Drug Offenders

(Chicago) — According to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, and as reported in the Chicago Tribune, African-Americans in Illinois are nearly eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though usage rates between the groups are nearly the same. The New York Times notes that these disparities are worst in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The disproportionality in marijuana arrests is part of a deeper problem in Illinois, where African-Americans are far more likely than whites to be arrested and prosecuted for any drug crime.

A December 2010 study by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a non-partisan group of policymakers and justice professionals, found that arrest data indicated that disproportionality in all drug arrests occurred in 62 of the 102 counties in Illinois, including urban, suburban, and rural areas. Racial disparities for drug arrests varied widely by county but tended to be greater in jurisdictions with smaller populations of nonwhite residents.

In addition, the study noted that the rate of imprisonment for all drug offenses is also substantially higher for African-Americans than for whites, averaging 80 percent of all persons admitted to Illinois prisons for drug offenses.

However, what the recent report on marijuana arrests does not capture is the futility and the wasted money of a law enforcement strategy that arrests, prosecutes, and imprisons non-violent drug offenders versus a public health intervention strategy that deploys – more effectively, efficiently and fairly – drug prevention, drug treatment and other alternatives to incarceration for each and every drug offender.

Non-violent drug arrests that lead to imprisonment annually cost Illinois taxpayers, on average, $25,000, versus $5,000 for drug treatment and supervision.

Rather than unjustly targeting African-Americans for drug offenses, the State of Illinois and local governments should expand the use of diversionary programs and sentencing alternatives –including day reporting centers, drug schools, specialty courts, first offender probation, and designated program supervision – for all drug offenders.

Association Recognizes Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Danny Davis, and IL Senators Mattie Hunter and Kwame Raoul for Racial Justice Efforts

(Chicago, IL) —The Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) presented awards on March 18 to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Danny K. Davis and Illinois State Senators Mattie Hunter and Kwame Raoul for legislative leadership in criminal justice policy.

Left to right: Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul; IACJ Chair Diane Williams; Clarisol Duque on behalf of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin; Congressman Danny Davis; Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter; IACJ Vice-Chair Pamela Rodriguez. Photo by David Ormsby.

The association’s inaugural event, held at the Safer Foundation in Chicago, featured a room filled to capacity with audience members who lauded legislators for their commitment and sponsorship of key legislation to advance fairness in the justice system.

The association recognized Senator Durbin for authoring the Fair Sentencing Act, which was signed into law in 2010 and reduces the sentencing disparity in the mandatory penalties for possession of crack versus powder cocaine.

IACJ awarded Congressman Davis for sponsoring the Second Chance Act, which provides federal seed grants for programs that assist individuals released from prison to successfully reenter society

Senators Hunter and Raoul also received the group’s recognition for state legislative drug crime reform efforts in Springfield. Hunter successfully sponsored the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission law that addresses racial disparities in justice system’s response to drug crimes.

Raoul won approval for Illinois Crime Reduction Act, a measure that invests in community-based solutions to non-violent, drug-related crime.

“At the heart of our mission, our goals are to advance criminal justice reforms that guarantee equality for all under the law, create safer communities, and reduce the financial burden of expensive and unnecessary incarceration on taxpayers,” said IACJ President Diane Williams. “Congressman Davis and Senators Durbin, Hunter and Raoul embody those goals.”

“Our mission is to ensure that services and public policies are in place that will reduce crime and restore individuals to stability and productivity in their communities,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities). “We’re here today because it’s vital to recognize legislative leaders when they take courageous stands in matters of fiscal responsibility and social justice. We care about these issues, we understand the impact of public policy in our communities, and we’re paying attention to what happens in Springfield and Washington.”

Founded in 2010, the mission of the Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) is to ensure quality, comprehensive and coordinated services for people with criminal histories through the education of the public, advocacy, and community capacity building. TASC and the Safer Foundation are founding member organizations of IACJ.

IACJ to Honor U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Danny K. Davis, IL Senator Mattie Hunter and IL Senator Kwame Raoul for Criminal Justice and Racial Justice Legislation

(Chicago, IL) —  Supporters of criminal justice reform are invited to join the Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) in honoring legislators who have demonstrated key leadership in advancing racial and criminal justice.

IACJ’s awards will be presented at the Safer Foundation, 571 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.

  • The association will recognize the work of:U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, for sponsoring the Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law in 2010, which reduces the sentencing disparity in mandatory penalties for possession of crack versus powder cocaine. (Clarisol Duque, Chicago Director for the Office of Senator Durbin, will accept the award on the Senator’s behalf.)
  • U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis, for sponsoring the Second Chance Act, originally signed into law in 2008, which provides federal seed grants for programs that assist individuals released from prison to successfully reenter society.
  • IL State Senator Mattie Hunter, for leading the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, which addresses racial disparities in the justice system’s response to drug crimes.
  • IL State Senator Kwame Raoul, for sponsoring the Illinois Crime Reduction Act, which invests in community-based solutions to non-violent, drug-related crime.

Recognizing that corrections reform is at the top of state and federal policy agendas, IACJ will honor legislators whose leadership has been instrumental in improving policy. The awards will be presented by Diane Williams, chair of the IACJ board and president of the Safer Foundation, and Pamela Rodriguez, vice-chair of the IACJ board and president of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities). The Safer Foundation and TASC are among the founding members of IACJ.

To confirm your attendance, please send an email with your name, title, and organization/affiliation to: Jon.Kaplan@SaferFoundation.org.