In Illinois, People with Criminal Records May Register and Vote

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

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

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

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

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

Varying Laws across the US

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

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

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

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

Reforms in Illinois

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

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

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

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

State Capitol Building, Springfield, IL

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Supporting International Efforts to Prevent Overdose and Treat Substance Use Disorders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 26 is International Day Against Drug Abuse; TASC Hosts Caribbean Delegation Visit of Model Justice Interventions

(Chicago) — To promote an international society free of drug abuse, June 26 is designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. As an active partner with national and international bodies committed to reducing substance use disorders and their consequences, TASC has been recognized as a model for advancing collaborative strategies to divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into treatment and recovery in the community.

Most recently, in collaboration with criminal justice partners in Cook County, TASC hosted a delegation of high-level justice and health officials from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, who visited Chicago June 11-12 to explore innovative practices in implementing alternatives to incarceration.

Organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) with the support of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Canadian Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), the visit offered a unique opportunity for delegates to converse directly with leaders in Cook County (encompassing Chicago) who implement justice diversion practices.

As part of the OAS, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) provides technical assistance to OAS member states in the implementation of alternatives to incarceration. For the June visit, CICAD partnered in Chicago with TASC, and in New York with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), both of which have earned recognition for designing, implementing, and promoting alternatives to incarceration.

In Cook County, the formal visit featured meetings with several justice leaders and dignitaries, including segments at the Cook County Jail with Sheriff Tom Dart; at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building with Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division LeRoy K. Martin Jr., Associate Judge James B. Linn, and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli; and at the Chicago Police Department with 11th District Commander Kevin Johnson. The delegation also visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center near the jail, which offers an overnight stay and linkage to services for individuals with complex needs, and later met U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), champion of the landmark Second Chance Act.

Throughout the two-day visit to Cook County, discussions focused on diversion strategies, including care coordination and embedded case management, that guide men and women who have substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

“Because TASC is baked into the criminal justice system in Illinois, the justice system presents a more human face—with a focus on the individual—and promotes public health and human rights,” said Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the OAS, who led the Caribbean delegation. “That is exactly what the OAS promotes as an organization. So there’s great synergy.”

“We are grateful to the support of the U.S. State Department’s INL, to OAS/CICAD, and to Global Affairs Canada for making important international exchanges like this possible,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “With thanks to our justice system partners, Cook County continues to be a model nationally and internationally, and we are glad to be able to help show the value and breadth of these collaborative efforts.”

For more than two decades, TASC has worked with federal and international partners to promote community-based systems of addiction recovery around the world. Among these activities, and through the leadership and support of INL, TASC has offered curriculum development and week-long training events provided by TASC teams in South Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

In addition, TASC is a member organization of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, comprised of some 200 organizations from across the globe who are engaged in service delivery, advocacy, research, and evaluation at international, regional, and national levels. The VNGOC provides a link between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Vienna-based agencies involved in setting drug policy: the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Working together with local, national, and international partners, TASC is committed to shared goals of reducing substance use disorders and their consequences worldwide.

June 2018: TASC leaders welcomed OAS/CICAD delegation from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the OAS, led the Caribbean delegation visit to TASC and alternative-to-incarceration programs in Cook County, Illinois.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez welcomed OAS/CICAD delegates and presented a breadth of program and policy opportunities available to implement criminal justice diversion programs.

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.

2015 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon to Honor Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell

(Chicago) – With a commitment to reducing incarceration and increasing opportunities for recovery, TASC will honor two leading voices in these movements at the agency’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 10.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart will receive TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award and entrepreneur and recovery advocate William T. O’Donnell, Jr. will receive the agency’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will serve as the presenting sponsor of this year’s event, which supports TASC’s services across Illinois.

Dart is a national leader in calling for an end to the over-incarceration of people with mental health and substance use problems, advocating instead for available treatment and supports in the community.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC's 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree.

Elected sheriff in 2006, Dart is responsible for the nation’s largest single site jail, which daily detains thousands of individuals who have mental health and substance use disorders. Until a few years ago, nine out of 10 jail detainees lacked healthcare coverage, thereby significantly hindering their access to community-based treatment. When Medicaid eligibility was expanded in 2013 to cover previously uninsured adults, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with TASC and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, created processes for all individuals coming through the jail to apply for coverage. Since 2013, more than 25,000 people who have come through the Cook County Jail have applied for healthcare coverage, increasing their opportunities to access community-based care before they reach the justice system.

Dart continues to promote collaborative, community-based partnerships and linkages to care for people with complex health issues. Most recently, the sheriff’s office, along with TASC and Heartland Alliance, received a $1M grant from the University of Chicago Urban Labs to develop a Supportive Release Center for people with mental health issues who are exiting the jail.

“Sheriff Dart understands that the criminal justice system was never designed to be a health care provider,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “We support and applaud his commitment to creating more sensible, effective, and dignified societal responses to behavioral health problems.”

Entrepreneur Bill O'Donnell, TASC's 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell, TASC’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree.

Creating pathways to recovery has been the longtime mission of Bill O’Donnell, who will receive TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award. A native of Chicago, O’Donnell resides in Wilmette and is managing director of ODE, LLC, an investment and development firm. He began his career with Bally Manufacturing and quickly ascended the corporate ladder, but addiction took its toll. O’Donnell’s subsequent personal journey and rejuvenation in recovery, combined with his business development expertise, led him to found Sierra Tucson in 1983, which he built into a world renowned addiction treatment center and dually licensed psychiatric hospital.

In 1995, O’Donnell also founded Miraval Resort, which has consistently received the highest ratings by industry publications. Along with a being a prominent business leader, he remains a voice for others who struggle with addiction, and also an advocate for family involvement in the treatment and recovery process.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize Bill as a renowned leader in the treatment field,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “From the outset of his work in the field, he understood that addiction is far beyond an individual struggle; it’s a family disease too. By creating clinical programs that include family members in the process, he not only has helped countless people achieve and maintain recovery, but he has helped families become stronger and healthier as well.”

TASC’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Thursday, December 10 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 19. For sponsorship opportunities and additional information, please click here.