"You have people working against mass incarceration right here. CU Citizens for Peace and Justice is doing the work and they need your help, volunteers, and money." - Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
No More Jails in Champaign County!
Join us on Thursday, May 2nd at 6 p.m. at the Brookens Admin Building, 1776 E. Washington, Urbana for a public meeting with Dr. Kalmanoff and the County Board! Details below.
Dr. Kalmanoff is the Director of the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP), the firm hired by Champaign County to conduct a needs assessment regarding the county jail and related criminal justice issues. Dr. Kalmanoff has been interviewing people and gathering data for his assessment since November. You can read about the public hearing held with Dr. Kalmanoff here and watch the full video here.
Dr. Kalmanoff will present his draft report of the ILPP on the jail/criminal justice system to the County Board on April 30 at 6 p.m. at Brookens Administration Building, 1776 E. Washington St, Urbana.
On Thursday, May 2 also at 6 p.m., Dr. Kalmanoff will hold a public meeting to discuss the report. This will also be at Brookens Administration Building, 1776 E. Washington St, Urbana. Members of the public will be able to question him directly without the usual restrictions of board meetings. We encourage everyone who is interested in the issue of the jail and funding alternatives to incarceration to attend this meeting and make your voice be heard. Let this be the first time ever the newly renovated board room has been filled to capacity!!
To learn more about the No More Jails in Champaign County! campaign, click here.
County Board proposals to spend $20 million on new jail cells
The CUCPJ has been active this year in opposing the Champaign County Board’s proposal to build new jail facilities. At present the county has two jails-one in downtown Urbana which was built in 1980 with a capacity of 131 and a satellite in East Urbana built in 1996 and expanded in 2003 that holds 182. The County claims that the downtown jail is run down, has inappropriate security systems and that running two facilities is inefficient. The Sheriff and certain members of the County Board seem to favor closing the downtown facility and building more cells at the satellite. Though no exact figures have been put forward for such a project, the preliminary estimates provided to the Board ranged between $15 and $20 million.
In 2011, the average daily population in the two jails was 223, down from 259 in 2006. That means on average there were 90 empty beds in our jails. This doesn’t seem like a situation that demands more jail construction. Moreover, since 2003 both the crime rates and the average daily population in the jail have steadily declined. This doesn’t seem to be a situation that warrants building new jail cells.
We think the county can find better ways to spend taxpayer dollars. The following points explain our thinking on the jail issue. We welcome feedback from the community on our views:
1. The CUCPJ has deep concern about the situation of those incarcerated in the downtown jail. We recognize the deficiencies in the upkeep of this jail as a serious problem that needs addressing. Our concern about the plight of the people incarcerated there is consistent with the advocacy work that we have done in the criminal justice field for years. But this can be tackled without building new jail cells.
2. The problem in the county jail is not simply an issue of a building. It is part of a larger set of issues related to public safety and how criminal justice operates in the county. We can’t address the jail and ignore these other issues, especially since the proposed jail construction options involve a sum of $15-20 million dollars.
3. The other issues that need to be addressed include:
a. The public safety tax, which will be the source of funds for any jail construction, was put into effect by a vote by the citizens of this county. Therefore, we believe that any decision about spending further money should include public participation through a series of public meetings in different parts of the county and ultimately a voter referendum if necessary. Also, the Board needs to bring citizens from the community onto the committees and teams that investigate and debate the issues related to the jail.
b. We need to channel more of the public safety tax funds into social services programs that prevent people from being incarcerated. This tax currently brings in over $4 million per year, but only 5% (about $200,000) goes for youth education. The rest has gone to renovating the court house, building the Juvenile Detention Center and paying off the bond on the satellite jail. We think the best way for the Board to ensure public safety is to prevent crime before it happens by supporting increased services for job training, youth education, mental health, substance abuse treatment, re-entry and housing.
c. We need to investigate why consistently more than 60% of those in the county jail are African-American when the county’s population is only 12% Black. One of the most effective ways to reduce the costs of incarceration would be to find ways to reduce the flow of Black youth into jails. The Board needs to consider this issue before building new jail cells.
d. We need to examine the past history of capital project expenditure in the county. Two of the most recent projects, the Juvenile Detention Center and the Nursing Home are under-utilized. We need to explore why this has happened before we proceed to spend more money on mega-construction projects.
e. We need to understand how a thirty year old jail has deteriorated so quickly. The downtown jail is not an old building. It was built in 1980. This facility could only have deteriorated if it was either poorly constructed to begin with or through a process of neglect. We need to understand exactly what has happened to make sure it is not repeated with any new jail construction process.
f. We need to examine the possibilities of building cheaper, minimum security facilities to house people with traffic offenses and other minor violations or to sentence them to community service or work release rather than jail. This would free up more money for social services.
Keep up to date on the jail issue by visiting the Independent Media Center (UMC) website: www.ucimc.org CUCPJ website: cucpj.org
To join the campaign against new jail construction attend the meetings of CUCPJ on Saturdays at 4 p.m. at:
IMC, 202 S. Broadway, Urbana.
The CUCPJ is committed to publicly providing accurate, relevant data and research regarding racial and class inequities in the Champaign-Urbana area
When a citizen feels that he or she has been treated illegally by a police officer, the citizen has the right to file a complaint against the officer. CUCPJ is currently fighting to make this process easier and less intimidating for citizens. By providing places that complaints can be filed, other than the police station, and having designated community members who will aid citizens and guide them through the complain process, CUCPJ hopes to empower the residents of Champaign-Urbana, and more accurately hold the police departments responsible for their actions.
In light of recent incidents involving Champaign Police and members of the Champaign community and in the interest of promoting a safer, more transparent relationship between the police and community in the city of Champaign, the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ) would like to submit a proposal for amending three aspects of the Champaign Police Department’s employment contract with the city of Champaign: the residency requirement, the drug testing policy, and access to personnel files.
The 14th Amendment provides for due process & equal protection under the law. Champaign County has a long history of police misconduct and racial inequity, which has continued in the form of racial profiling, and senseless police shootings directed at African-American residents. Although African-Americans make up only 12% of the Champaign County population, they represent 75% - 80% of those sent to prison in the County. CUCPJ strives to makes statistics and information about these inequities available to the residents of Champaign County, with the opinion that knowledge is the first step to change.