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Ending the criminalization of poverty

For too long, we have held nonviolent offenders in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.

A person walks by Cook County Jail on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

For too long, our criminal justice system has criminalized poverty, often detaining low-level, nonviolent offenders simply because they cannot afford bail.

This is the reality recognized by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices, of which I am the chairperson.

The Illinois General Assembly is commended for addressing this difficult issue in its recent pretrial reform legislation. The date for the legislation to become effective is delayed, which will be critical in establishing these reforms effectively and ensuring that individuals who pose a threat to public safety are detained pretrial.

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In 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court formed the commission, a multidisciplinary body of criminal justice stakeholders, including representatives from all three branches of government. The commission was charged with providing recommendations regarding comprehensive pretrial reform throughout Illinois. The group met for two years, studied best practices, consulted pretrial reform experts, held public forums and collected stakeholder feedback, culminating in its Final Report in 2020.

Last summer, the state Supreme Court established a bipartisan task force to implement the report’s recommendations. Members of the task force discussed the proposed pretrial reform legislation with legislators and advocates, working to align the bill produced as much as possible with the recommendations in the commission’s report.

The Supreme Court has directed the task force to assume a leadership role in implementing this historic and courageous legislation. We look forward to continued dialogue with the Legislature. We will work to ensure that comprehensive, sustainable pretrial reform is implemented throughout Illinois.

Robbin Stuckert
Presiding Judge, 23rd Judicial Circuit
Chair, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices

True agenda of Chicago Teachers Union

My kids are now in their first year in college. I am relieved that we are no longer a Chicago Public Schools family and the education of my children is no longer subject to the whims of the Chicago Teachers Union.

While the CTU has raised valid concerns about schools reopening during the pandemic, the union’s voice has been drowned out by its “everything but the kitchen sink” demands.

Yes, addressing homelessness in Chicago is important, and it is true there are legitimate issues to be addressed when it comes to police conduct and funding. But these issues do not belong in discussions to get Chicago children back in school.

To further delay the return of students by introducing demands that have nothing to do with their immediate need to get a quality and equitable education is irresponsible. It shines a very bright light on the true agenda of the CTU.

Chicago students already have suffered considerably by being home these past 11 months. Many may never catch up, and the educational gaps and related disparities will only widen. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public School administrators have acted in good faith to make the schools safe for everyone. It’s time for CTU to do the same.

Erica Salem, Lakeview