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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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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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.

 

 

TASC 2016 Awards Luncheon Honors Civic and Philanthropic Leaders

(Chicago) – Business leaders, government officials, service providers, and community partners were among the more than 300 guests who filled the ballroom of the Westin Michigan Avenue on December 14 as TASC presented its 2016 Leadership Awards to The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene.

Several past honorees—Congressman Danny Davis, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, attorney and former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, attorney and former Illinois Appellate Judge Gino DiVito, and recently retired WGN news anchor Robert Jordan—were on hand to congratulate the 2016 award recipients and celebrate TASC’s 40-year anniversary.

Justice Leadership Award

In presenting TASC’s 2016 Justice Leadership Award to Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, TASC President Pam Rodriguez observed, “We know that the landscape of journalism has changed dramatically in the last several years. In this environment, quality journalism is a gift and a necessity for a free society.

The Reporter has explored the racial inequities in state and federal drug laws, and the complexities of undoing the damage of those laws,” Rodriguez said. “They have explored the links between poverty and incarceration, including the importance of repairing the cash bail system. They have reported extensively on the juvenile justice system in Illinois, and their reports have helped to inform policies that have significantly reduced our juvenile justice population.”

“Good journalism can help connect us to one another as a community, and it helps us to make informed decisions,” she said.

“I want to thank Pam for describing exactly why journalism in the public interest is important,” said Richardson in accepting the award, also crediting the founders and staff of The Chicago Reporter, as well as the Community Renewal Society with which it is aligned. She emphasized the importance of facts, figures, and numbers in measuring the city’s progress toward racial equality.

“What we hope we can do in this din, where facts are up for grabs, and certainly truth is always up for dispute, is to consistently pound away… using data, using rigorous reporting to be able to document what is actually happening in this community. We want to tell those stories.”

Public Voice Leadership Award

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca spoke of the recently released Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol Drugs and Health, which highlights the importance of diverting people to treatment, delivering evidence-based care, and enhancing the coordination of care and sustained recovery.

“Our work is as important and relevant today as it was 40 years ago,” said Palanca. More than 27 million people report misusing drugs, and 66 million report binge drinking. But only 10 percent get the help they need.

“It takes all of us to create communities of support for those we serve,” Palanca said, recognizing the diversity of public sector and private sector partners in the room. He praised TASC’s 2016 Public Voice Award honoree, John Kaul Greene, as “a man who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and about making our world a better place.

“John Greene is a husband, father, mentor, scholar, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He is a longtime and consistent advocate for the work that brings us together today.”

Greene built businesses in Europe and Chicago for William Blair & Company before retiring as a partner in 2004. Among his many volunteer endeavors, he served on the board of a prominent addiction treatment organization when he met Palanca.

“It is through Peter Palanca that I have come to understand more about TASC, and what a significant role it plays in helping the most needy with addictive problems,” said Greene.

“My strongest impression of TASC is that you are down there in the trenches working with people who need it most… Through seeing your work, and in my own life, I have witnessed what can happen when you plant the seeds of recovery. For each person you help today, you are also helping his or her family members, friends, neighbors, future employers, and fellow citizens.”

40 Years and Looking Forward

“TASC is celebrating its 40th birthday this year,” noted TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, associate vice provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It is my belief that TASC is just entering its prime. It is still a young organization… always reinventing and coming up with new ideas.”

TASC’s 2016 event helped raise funds for the Supportive Release Center, a new initiative that will provide immediate connections to services for individuals in need who are leaving the Cook County Jail. A collaborative effort between TASC, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Heartland Health Outreach, and The University of Chicago Urban Labs through their Health Innovations Award, the SRC also has received support from several Chicago-area foundations and will open in 2017.

Curtwright offered special appreciation to the event’s 2016 presenting sponsor, PBC Advisors, and elite sponsor, Alkermes, as well as select sponsors John Kaul Greene, Janssen, Bill and Lezlie O’Donnell, William Blair, and Yes Lifecycle Marketing. He thanked sponsors at all levels, as well as this year’s event chair, John Zielinski, who helped ensure that this year’s event was the most successful ever.

“TASC remains committed to advocating for our clients and to improving the systems in which they are involved, no matter where, no matter when, and no matter what,” said Rodriguez. “And we have all of you—old friends and new—working beside us, inspiring new ideas and innovation.

“We are all leaders in this work, and we are all necessary in this work, and because of what I know about all of you, I remain hopeful and optimistic as we encounter the changes and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Founded in Illinois in 1976, TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) offers programs and promotes public policies that divert people who have substance use and mental health conditions out of the justice system and into recovery in the community.

TASC presents its 2016 Justice Leadership Award to the Chicago Reporter. Left to right: Peter Palanca, TASC; Susan Smith, The Chicago Reporter; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, Community Renewal Society

TASC presents its 2016 Justice Leadership Award to the Chicago Reporter. Left to right: Peter Palanca, TASC; Susan Smith Richardson, The Chicago Reporter; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, Community Renewal Society.

 

John Kaul Greene (center right) accepts TASC's 2016 Public Voice Leadership Award from (left to right): TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, TASC President Pam Rodriguez, and TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca

John Kaul Greene (center right) accepts TASC’s 2016 Public Voice Leadership Award. Left to right: TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; John Greene; Peter Palanca, TASC.

The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene to Receive TASC’s 2016 Leadership Awards

(Chicago) — TASC is pleased to announce that it will present its 2016 Leadership Awards to The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 14.

TASC’s Justice Leadership Award will be presented to Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, an award-winning online news organization and program of the Community Renewal Society.

Susan Smith Richardson, Editor and Publisher, The Chicago Reporter

Susan Smith Richardson, Editor and Publisher, The Chicago Reporter

“The Chicago Reporter consistently gives voice to issues that deeply affect TASC clients, our communities, and society at large,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “To succeed in addressing pervasive challenges such as poverty and injustice, we must be able to tell the truth about what’s happening. The Chicago Reporter helps tell that truth.”

2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree John Kaul Greene

2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree
John Kaul Greene

TASC’s 2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award honoree is John Kaul Greene, a lifelong civic leader and philanthropist whose respected voice has helped to reduce the quiet stigma that families face when confronted with addiction and mental health challenges. Greene initiated and led new businesses for William Blair & Company in Europe and Chicago, retiring as a partner in 2004.

“John is a leader who has helped elevate the conversation around issues of health and recovery,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “He has helped countless families to and through the winding roads of recovery, and he is a powerful champion for the work we do.”

TASC’s luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue on Wednesday, December 14 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Please visit tasc.org for tickets and sponsorship opportunities.