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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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.

 

Congress Restores Second Chance Act Funding

(Chicago, IL)— Federal funding for Second Chance reentry programs, which had been cut by the Senate in September (see Sept. 16 post), has been restored. The House originally had approved $70 million for the Second Chance Act, but the Senate had eliminated the funding, leaving programs across the country in jeopardy for the 2012 fiscal year that began October 1.  

As reported in an electronic press release by the Legal Action Center on November 18, “In a dramatic victory for advocates and stakeholders who support smart approaches to reentry that reduce recidivism and improve lives and communities, the House and Senate negotiated the differences between the two bills and today passed legislation, signed into law by the President, that includes $63 million in funding for Second Chance in FY 2012. The funding level is remarkably close to the $70 million high-water mark set by the House…”

Persistent phone calls and emails from reentry advocates across the country made a difference.

“The restored funding is not only a testament to the value and necessity of evidence-based reentry services, but it’s also a reminder that our voices are heard in Washington,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez.  “We commend the members of Congress and our colleagues and fellow citizens across the country who recognized what’s at stake and insisted on the funding restoration.”

For details of the legislation, including funding for other criminal justice programs, please visit the Council of State GovernmentsKnowledge Center.

 

Congressman Danny Davis, White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske Headline Oct. 17 Forum on Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Adjudication Programs

(Chicago, IL) – Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) will convene a forum featuring Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and local drug prevention and treatment advocates to discuss the impact of Federal and local initiatives to combat recidivism and substance misuse.

The forum will take place at A Safe Haven, 2750 W. Roosevelt Road in Chicago on Monday, October 17 beginnin at 9:00 A.M.                 

The criminal justice system is the largest single source of referrals to substance abuse treatment in the U.S., comprising 37 percent of those in treatment. Criminal justice referrals are less likely to drop out of treatment and more likely to complete treatment than all other referrals (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Illinois has implemented several alternative-to-incarceration models that redirect eligible people into community-based treatment from all points in the justice system (e.g., prosecution, court, and sentencing), thereby reducing substance misuse and recidivism while maintaining supervision and accountability.

The forum will feature two panels with Federal officials and local advocates. The first panel will discuss Federal initiatives available in the Chicago area, including civilian and veteran drug prevention programs and drug courts, and the second panel will highlight the success of local drug treatment and adjudication programs and their impact on the health and safety of local communities. 

Congressman Davis is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives, and lead sponsor of the Second Chance Act, which authorizes federal grants to entities that provide drug treatment, mental health care, housing and jobs for people newly released from prison.

Who:                Panel 1

  Panel 2

TASC, Inc. is an advocate of cost-effective alternatives to incarceration and is a member agency of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, represented on Panel 2.  

Members of the media and the general public are welcome to attend the forum.

President Bush Signs Second Chance Act, Providing Funding for Drug Treatment; Rep. Davis Attends

(Washington, D.C.) — On April 9, with members of Congress and others on hand, including Chicago U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL), President George W. Bush signed the prisoner re-entry legislation, Second Chance Act of 2007, at the Executive Office Building in Washington.

The Act authorizes $165 million in grants for state, local and non-profit re-entry programs, drug treatment programs, research, and a resource center for ex-offenders.

“This bill is going to support the caring men and women who help America’s prisoners find renewal and hope,” Bush said at the ceremony.

Davis was the bill’s original sponsor.

Melody Heaps, president of the Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice, says the Second Chance Act is economically smart, because it curbs state prison costs.

Rep. Davis, Heaps Hail Second Chance Act Approval, Angered at Spike in U.S. Prison Population

Audio: TASC President Melody Heaps comments on the U.S. Senate Passage of the Second Chance Act and TASC’s new No Entry strategy of prison diversion to drug treatment

(Washington, D.C.) —TASC President Melody Heaps joined U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) at a Washington, D.C. press conference last week to hail the recent U.S. Senate passage of the Second Chance Act and to urge President George Bush to sign the legislation.

The Second Chance Act passed the Senate by a unanimous vote. It passed the House by a wide margin in November and is awaiting President Bush’s signature.

Davis, D-Ill., the bill’s original sponsor, said Bush has privately encouraged the bill.

The Second Chance Act authorizes $165 million in grants for state, local and non-profit re-entry programs, drug treatment programs, research, and a resource center for ex-offenders.

While Davis and Heaps celebrated the measure’s Senate approval, they both expressed dismay at the escalating U.S. incarceration rates.

A February 2008 report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project says more than 2.3 million people are incarcerated in federal or state prisons, roughly one in every 100 adults. more people per capita than any other nation. More than Russia, more than China.

African-Americans are hit disproportionately. The Pew report says that one in every 15 black males over age 18 is in jail or prison. For whites, the number is one out of 106, and for Hispanics, it is one out of 36.

Heaps, also president of the Chicago-based Center for Health and Justice, says the Second Chance Act is economically smart, curbing state prison costs.

“The greater portion of most state dollars are going to feed a correctional industry, an industry which will be immune to recession,” she said.