Honorees at TASC 2018 Leadership Awards Luncheon: This is Just the Beginning

(Chicago) –  TASC’s 2018 Leadership Award recipients—action-driven change agents forging new pathways within their professions—humbly echoed similar themes as they accepted their awards at the agency’s annual luncheon in Chicago on December 12: Thank you, but this is just the beginning. There is much work to be done.

Bringing 250-plus guests to their feet at the Westin Michigan Avenue after their remarks, Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, and Chicago Beyond Leader in Residence Dr. Nneka Tapia each offered inspiring perspectives on bringing about a healthier, more just society.

Justice Leadership Awards

“Addiction and mental illness are two of the most critical issues facing every community,” said Langloss, who initiated the Safe Passage law enforcement deflection program in Dixon and Lee counties.

Pointing out that 50,000 people in the US lost their lives to overdose in 2016, and 72,000 more died in 2017, he urged, “This is unacceptable. This is a public health epidemic that we cannot arrest our way out of. Behind every death, there is a family. There is a son or a daughter. There is a husband or a wife. There is a mom or a dad. And I’ll tell you—if you’ve never done a death notification, where you go out and tell somebody for the first time that their loved one has died—it is something you’d never want to do. I’ve done this more than 50 times. This is being done across our country 72,000 times a year. It has to change.”

In presenting TASC’s Justice Leadership Awards, TASC President Pam Rodriguez praised Langloss and Guenther for taking action to stop cycles of addiction, arrest, and incarceration. “They didn’t close their eyes to the realities in front of them. Nor did they fall back on traditional law enforcement responses to drug use. Instead, they pioneered new pathways to recovery. A better way. Rather than arresting people who have overdosed or have a drug problem, they are deflecting people to treatment.”

“Substance use disorder grabs people,” said Langloss. “This is a chronic, relapsing disease. The pathway to recovery is a process; it is not an event… As we reshape this war on drugs—this failed war on drugs—we have to take a community-based approach,” he said, invoking the need for public health officials, doctors, police, faith-based partners, and people in recovery to collaborate in deflection initiatives. “This is a smart-on-crime approach. This is one of the greatest, proactive crime-fighting opportunities that we have.”

Justice Award honoree Guenther, who co-created Lake County’s A Way Out program and is an instrumental partner in the Lake County Opioid Initiative, also lauded the value of deflection. “This is actually a smart approach to crime reduction. If we can identify portions of our population that chronically commit crimes that are associated with a number of behavioral health issues—and work at helping them with those behavioral health issues—then we are actually addressing the root cause and the true origin of crime.”

Over 23 years in law enforcement, Guenther noted that in interviewing hundreds of candidates, the response to ‘Why do you want to be a police officer?’ is invariably a version of, ‘Because I want to help people.’

“Deflection makes sense for a number of reasons,” Guenther continued. “Decreasing crime, incarceration, and recidivism rates, saving taxpayer dollars, lessening the burden on the criminal justice system. But probably most important, it reinforces for thousands of us why we said we wanted to be police officers: because we wanted to help people. Not some people. All people.”

He implored attendees to hold public officials accountable for looking at their professions and figuring out better ways to be successful. “Is that not my job?” he asked. “Reform to me is an opportunity for me to change my profession and to give back to the people that I swore I would help.”

Together with TASC, Chiefs Guenther and Langloss spearheaded Senate Bill 3023, which authorizes and encourages the implementation of pre-arrest diversion programs across Illinois. The first bill of its kind in the country, it was signed into law in August.

Public Voice Leadership Award

“When it comes to understanding the impact of addiction and trauma on families, and the need for comprehensive responses, few people have the depth of understanding and compassion that our Public Voice Leadership honoree has,” Rodriguez said in introducing TASC’s 2018 Public Voice Leadership Award. “Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia is a true role model when it comes to cross-systems collaboration.”

As executive director at the Cook County Department of Corrections, Tapia and her team were critical partners in bringing the Supportive Release Center into being. Her singular expertise as both a psychologist and corrections executive has made her a recognized and passionate advocate for mental wellness, criminal justice reform, and interventions for youth. Today she is working with Chicago Beyond to advance trauma-informed care for young people impacted by violence and parental incarceration, in order to help them achieve their full potential.

“When I first learned that I was receiving the Public Voice Leadership Award, I started to think about the thousands of Chicago voices that are muted, the thousands of Chicago voices that we don’t allow ourselves to hear,” offered Tapia as she accepted her award. “These are the mothers and the fathers and the sons and daughters that end up in our criminal justice system, that end up in our emergency rooms, and that end up on a 911 call. And then I started to think, what would it look like—what would Chicago look like—if we heard those voices before they ended up in our criminal justice system, before they ended up in our emergency rooms, and before they ended up on our 911 calls? Can you imagine what Chicago would look like? Our emergency rooms would be less crowded, our jails would have more beds than people, our kids would be able to play without having to hear gunshots. That’s the world that we look forward to.”

During Tapia’s tenure at the Cook County Jail, she was instrumental in creating programs that supported pathways to health in the community and reduced recidivism. “At one point in my career, Cook County Jail had 10,000 inmates. When I left, we had less than 6,000,” she said. Now as a leader in residence at Chicago Beyond, “and with the support of wonderful organizations like TASC and so many others, we can bring this cycle of incarceration to an end,” Tapia said. “When our youth are healed, our community will be healed. But until that happens, it is our collective responsibility to raise our voice.”

Special Announcements and Acknowledgments

The formal luncheon program concluded with the surprise announcement of a major gift from 2016 Public Voice honoree John Greene and his wife, Jean Greene. Moved by TASC’s work and by their affection for Peter Palanca, who retired in 2017 as TASC’s executive vice president and COO, they were on hand to hear Rodriguez make the announcement:  “I am thrilled and grateful to announce the creation of the Peter Palanca Endowment Fund at TASC.”

Thanking TASC’s supporters, partners, board members, and staff, Rodriguez also welcomed four past TASC Leadership Award Recipients in attendance: TASC founder Melody Heaps (2010), retired WGN news anchor Robert Jordan (2013), State Senator Mattie Hunter (2014); and Greene. In addition to Hunter, other elected officials at the luncheon included State Senator Melinda Bush, State Rep. LaShawn Ford, and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.

TASC Board Chair Michelle Montgomery opened the program with gratitude for TASC’s supporters, including the event’s elite sponsor, Alkermes; select sponsors Gateway Foundation and William Blair; and Friend of TASC sponsors First Midwest Bank, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc., Indivior, Inc., Janssen Neuroscience, and Rosecrance. She also thanked John Zielinski, chair of TASC’s event committee and vice chair of TASC’s board of directors, along with event committee members Glenn Blackmon, Robin Fandrei, DeAnna Jones, and Tracy Thompson.

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

2018 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon (l. to r.): Dr. Nneka Tapia, Public Voice Award honoree; Pam Rodriguez, TASC president; Chief Eric Guenther, Justice Award honoree; Danny Langloss, Justice Award honoree. Photo by Uk Studio, Inc.

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Health and Justice Reforms on the Ballot: 2018 Midterm Election Results

(Chicago) – Several criminal justice initiatives advanced during the 2018 midterm elections, marking notable progress in justice reform.

In Florida, for example, voters approved Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to people—1.4 million—who have completed serving the terms of their sentences, including probation and parole, for most felony offenses. Florida voters also approved Amendment 11, which allows the state’s legislature to enact sentencing reforms that apply retroactively.

In Colorado, voters approved a ballot measure which removes language from the state Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for crime. And in Louisiana, voters approved a constitutional change requiring unanimous juries for all felony convictions, which means that Oregon will soon be the only remaining state that allows juries that aren’t unanimous to send people to prison.

Medicaid expansion was also on the ballot in multiple states. Voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska supported measures to expand Medicaid, meaning 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, have now adopted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Several groups have published overviews of justice- and health-related results from the elections:

While the advancement of these justice reform initiatives is encouraging, there is more to be done.

“We are still far from the finish line in achieving comprehensive justice reform, but these are promising advances,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

For example, a recent investigative report critiques for-profit diversion programs in Illinois. Diversion programs are intended to divert eligible individuals who would have otherwise been arrested, charged, or incarcerated, away from the justice system and into appropriate community-based mental health or substance use treatment. However, without careful oversight, safeguards, and appropriate parameters, programs can have negative consequences.

“When programs with the stated purpose of diverting people away from the system actually draw more people into it, that’s ‘net widening,’” said Rodriguez. “This can occur, for instance, when people whose cases would have eventually been dropped are instead placed under community supervision as part of a ‘diversion’ program. But they may be charged large and unwarranted participation fees, and when they predictably fail to pay, they may be sent to jail or prison as a penalty. Obviously, scenarios like this run absolutely counter to the purpose of diversion programs.”

In a recent opinion piece, author and columnist Michelle Alexander also urged caution, writing that many current justice reforms “contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control,” including an increasing reliance on electronic monitoring.

“We must be thoughtful and purposeful in our reform efforts, and vigilant in guarding against unintended consequences and addressing entrenched disparities,” said Rodriguez. “Voter support for justice reforms and Medicaid expansion should serve as a catalyst in the continued pursuit of healthier and more just communities.”

TASC President Pam Rodriguez Selected to Pritzker Committee for Restorative Justice and Safe Communities

(Chicago) — TASC President Pam Rodriguez has been named to Governor-elect JB Pritzker’s Restorative Justice and Safe Communities Committee, which will advise the incoming administration on criminal justice reform and public safety.

Pritzker announced the formation of the committee at a press conference at the Safer Foundation on November 30.

The committee is the eighth of several working groups of the transition made up of subject-matter experts who will advise and guide the incoming Pritzker-Stratton administration. The Restorative Justice and Safe Communities Committee will be chaired by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, and Congresswoman Robin Kelly and consist of 42 members.

“If we’re committed to economic justice, let’s be committed to criminal justice reform and public safety,” said Pritzker. “These problems are not separate from each other. They’re intertwined with each other. It’s time to bring real prosperity to every community, tear down the barriers that block people from opportunity, and move away from a system of imprisonment and build a true system of justice.”

“A core promise of our campaign was the creation of the Office of Criminal Justice Reform and Economic Opportunity,” said Lieutenant Governor-elect Juliana Stratton, envisioning a system of justice that diverts youth and adults from incarceration, modernizes sentencing, encourages rehabilitation, and works to reduce gun violence and create economic opportunity. “I know we can achieve meaningful, lasting progress and opportunity and justice that we all believe in – but only if we act together,” she said.

“The state of Illinois needs to reimagine our criminal justice system,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “This committee will work to challenge and transform the ways our state deals with systemic issues that leave communities of color behind. I look forward to JB and Juliana’s leadership statewide to address gun violence and a more holistic approach to public safety.”

“It’s no secret that Illinois’ criminal justice system has failed communities across our state, and it’s time to fix it,” said State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth. “We can start by making our state agencies more accountable to the people they serve, and we can build collaboration across agencies to bring interconnected services into communities that need them most.”

“Governor-elect Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor-elect Stratton are ready to reinvent our criminal justice system so every Illinoisan has a chance to reach their full potential,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “They recognize that gun violence is a public health epidemic and have real prevention and intervention plans that will keep our communities safe.”

“I am honored to be part of this transition committee,” said TASC’s Rodriguez. “Working with Governor-elect Pritzker’s administration, the committee co-chairs, and colleagues from across the state, I look forward to helping to advance a criminal justice reform agenda for Illinois.”

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE AND SAFE COMMUNITIES COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Co-Chair – Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney

Co-Chair – Jehan Gordon-Booth, State Representative, Illinois General Assembly

Co-Chair – Robin Kelly, U.S. Congresswoman for Illinois’ 2nd District

Phillip Andrew, Director of Violence Prevention, Archdiocese of Chicago

Brian Asbell, Sheriff, Peoria County

Charles Bachtell, CEO and Co-Founder, Cresco Labs

Kathy Bankhead, Ombudsperson, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

Deanne Benos, Co-Founder, Women’s Justice Institute

Walter Burnett, Alderman, City of Chicago

Annalise Buth, M.R. Bauer Foundation Fellow, Center on Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Kelly Cassidy, State Representative, Illinois General Assembly

Kahalah Clay, Circuit Clerk, St. Clair County

Colleen Daley, Executive Director, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

Victor B. Dickson, President and CEO, Safer Foundation

Arne Duncan, Managing Partner, Emerson Collective

Michael Frerichs, Treasurer, State of Illinois

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Leader in Residence, Chicago Beyond

Brendan Kelly, State’s Attorney, St. Clair County

Edith Crigler, Member, Illinois Prisoner Review Board

Era Laudermilk, Deputy of Policy and Strategic Planning, Cook County Public Defender’s Office

Chris Lindsey, J.D., Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project

Jens Ludwig, Director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, University of Chicago

Tony Munoz, State Senator, Illinois General Assembly

Cliff Nellis, Executive Director, Lawndale Christian Legal Center

Mike Newman, Deputy Director, AFSCME

Katya Nuques, Executive Director, Enlace Chicago

Cheryl Parks, Executive Director, Job Partnerships Peoria

Quinn Rallins, Program Director, Illinois Justice Project

Julia Rietz, State’s Attorney, Champaign County

Elizabeth Robb, Retired Chief Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit

Pamela F. Rodriguez, President and CEO, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities

Selwyn Rogers, Director, University of Chicago Medicine’s Trauma Center

Kathleen Sances, Executive Director, Gun Violence Prevention PAC

Sean Smoot, Director, Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois

Jason Stamps, Acting Director, Center for Public Safety and Justice at UIC

Joseph Strickland, Associate Director & Senior Researcher, Jane Addams School of Social Work at UIC

Carmen Terrones, Consultant, David Lynch Foundation

Jennifer Vollen-Katz, Executive Director, John Howard Association

Julie Wilen, Executive Director, Pritzker Foundation

Diane Williams, President Emeritus, Safer Foundation

Kathleen Willis, State Representative, Illinois General Assembly

Paula Wolff, Director, Illinois Justice Project

IL Governor-elect JB Pritzker (podium) announces the formation of the transition’s Restorative Justice and Safe Communities Committee. Left to right: State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, Lieutenant Governor-elect Juliana Stratton, Governor-elect Pritzker, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Photo courtesy JB Pritzker Transition Team.

Charlier Named Head of TASC’s Center for Health and Justice

(Chicago) Jac Charlier has been named executive director of the Center for Health and Justice at TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities).

The Center (CHJ) helps justice and healthcare systems reduce crime and improve community health by diverting eligible people who have substance use and mental health conditions into community-based treatment and recovery.

As drug overdose deaths across the country have skyrocketed, Charlier is a leading voice in the emerging national movement toward pre-arrest diversion or “deflection” as standard practice, whereby law enforcement officers will, whenever appropriate, deflect people with behavioral health issues to treatment in the community.

TASC has a 40-year history of providing alternatives to incarceration and connecting justice systems to substance use and mental health treatment in the community. CHJ was established by TASC in 2006, bringing forth lessons from research and TASC’s direct experience accessing treatment and annually case managing thousands of individuals involved in Illinois courts and corrections systems.

Providing consultation and public policy solutions at local, state, federal, and international levels, some of the Center’s recent accomplishments include:

Based on the scope and success of Center’s work under Charlier’s leadership, who joined TASC in 2011, he becomes CHJ’s first full-time executive director.

“Nationally and locally, Jac has catapulted the conversation of deflection as a first response,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “His experience in community corrections, his understanding of the importance of local solutions to solve local problems, and his ability to see the big picture as well as commonalities among jurisdictions, all have enabled him to successfully build coalitions that work toward common goals.”

Jac Charlier, Executive Director, TASC Center for Health and Justice

In 2017, Charlier co-founded the national Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (PTACC), where he has led the development of frameworks for preventing and reducing opioid overdose and death among justice populations, as well as community-based post-overdose response strategies for law enforcement.

“Working in partnership with prominent leaders in justice, research, community, and treatment, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice continues to be relentlessly focused on creating the next generation of crime reduction solutions that lie at the intersection of the criminal justice and behavioral health,” said Charlier. “This means connecting people to treatment, understanding the research and science, staying close to the community, recognizing and addressing racial disparities, and always remembering the urgency and purpose of our work, especially for those who have been victims of crime.”

Prior to joining TASC, Charlier worked for 16 years with the Parole Division of the Illinois Department of Corrections, beginning as a street parole officer, and rising to deputy chief of parole, where he led system-wide parole operations for the Chicago metropolitan area.

TASC 2018 Luncheon to Honor Leaders in Justice System Diversion

(Chicago) — TASC’s 2018 Leadership Awards Luncheon will recognize experts who are forging new solutions in stopping cycles of justice system involvement before they begin.

Former Cook County Jail Executive Director Dr. Nneka Tapia, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, and Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss each will receive awards for their public health-informed approaches to criminal justice.

Dr. Nneka Tapia, TASC 2018 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award will be presented to Dr. Tapia, whose singular expertise as both a psychologist and corrections executive has made her a recognized and passionate advocate for mental wellness, criminal justice reform, and interventions for youth. In her eleven years of service and leadership within the Cook County Jail, including three as executive director, she advanced groundbreaking strategies to promote health and reduce recidivism, including the Cook County Mental Health Transition Center and TASC’s Supportive Release Center. These innovations help jail detainees who are experiencing poverty, substance use disorders, and mental health conditions to transition successfully to services and well-being in the community. Earlier this year, Dr. Tapia became the inaugural Leader in Residence at Chicago Beyond, with a focus on young people exposed to trauma and those whose parents have been incarcerated.

Danny Langloss, TASC 2018 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC’s Justice Leadership Award will be presented to Guenther and Langloss, who have been pivotal in reshaping how law enforcement officers respond when they encounter individuals who have overdosed or have substance use problems. Instead of arresting people or ignoring the situation, officers can offer deflection to treatment programs. In Dixon and Lee counties, Langloss launched the Safe Passage program, whereby those addicted to opioids and other drugs can walk into the police department and get connected to the help they need in the community.

Eric Guenther, TASC 2018 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

Likewise in Lake County, Chief Guenther co-created the A Way Out program and is an instrumental partner in the Lake County Opioid Initiative, which similarly offer avenues to treatment without fear of arrest. Together with TASC in 2018, Guenther and Langloss spearheaded the recently signed Senate Bill 3023, which authorizes and encourages the implementation of such programs across Illinois. Through their expertise, compassion, and leadership, Guenther and Langloss are advancing standard law enforcement practices for fighting addiction.

“Together, our three honorees represent part of a national movement toward recognizing that the justice system should not be the first place where people get help for substance use or mental health challenges,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Individuals can be diverted into treatment before arrest, and for those who are arrested, reentry with connections to care is essential.

“We are excited to recognize leaders whose initiatives are not only preventing and breaking cycles of incarceration here in Illinois, but whose successes are having an impact across the country,” she added.

TASC’s 2018 Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Wednesday, December 12 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 28. To reserve tickets, please click here.

For sponsorship opportunities or more information, please contact Nitza Reyes-Rodriguez at 312-573-8201.

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

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