Law center shows benefits of cash bail reform, South Side school to become temporary shelter for migrants and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Law center shows benefits of cash bail reform, South Side school to become temporary shelter for migrants and more in your Chicago news roundup
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Lawndale Christian Legal Center, a restorative justice-centered organization that provides legal, social, psychological and employment services to young adults in North Lawndale, is seen in this photo from April.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 38 degrees. Similar weather will continue into tonight with a low near 30. New Year’s Eve will be partly sunny with a high near 40 degrees. New Year’s Day will be mostly cloudy with a high near 45.

Top story

How a West Side law center is showing the benefits of releasing people before their trials

For those who fear the worst if cash bail ends in Illinois, Matthew McFarland invites them to spend a day with him.

“Come see our work, meet the people,” says McFarland, who works to get people out of jail and keep them out. “If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t understand the solution.”

McFarland is a vice president at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, where a staff of lawyers and social workers practice forms of restorative justice that emphasize reparation over incarceration.

For the last year, the center has worked on a pilot project that shows what happens — and what needs to happen — if and when cash bail is ended in Illinois. With a nearly $3 million grant, the center has worked to connect people coming out of jail with services for employment, housing, mental health, substance use, violence prevention and medical care. If people really care about addressing violence and increasing public safety, they should care about supporting those who are released from jail, McFarland said. “That’s where the answer is.”

So far, the center has worked with just under 1,300 people and 96% of them attended all their follow-up court dates. About 440 cases have already been concluded and charges were dropped in 367 of them, according to the center.

The two-year pilot is being funded by the Bail Project, a nationwide organization that provides free bail assistance to low-income people. Members of the legal center’s intake team are stationed in the pre-bond area of the Cook County Jail. The team speaks with nearly every person before they see a judge and assesses their needs, according to the center.

“I know how it feels when you get down in the county jail,” said Daryl Pierce, who has spent much of his life behind bars and now is a supervisor for the law center.

Pierce and his team work with people after they are released, connecting them with housing, employment resources, access to education, mental health care and substance treatment.

“If you think of clients, on average, identifying almost five of these things happening at one time, what is the probability of success?” Pierce asked.

Housing is one of the largest areas of need for recently released clients. Through a partnership with the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, the legal center finds subsidized housing for clients making below 30% of the area’s median income.

Sophie Sherry has more with the law center here.

More news you need

  1. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has appealed to the state’s highest court to overturn a Kankakee County judge’s ruling earlier this week that partially derailed a new law abolishing cash bail. The most controversial provision of the SAFE-T Act starts this Sunday — but not in 64 counties where authorities have sued to halt the reform. Raoul’s filing asks the Illinois Supreme Court to address that, our Mitchell Armentrout reports.
  2. After soaring for two years, shootings and homicides have dropped significantly in Chicago for the first time since the pandemic upended normal life. But gun violence remains alarmingly high in Chicago, keeping public safety a primary issue going into 2023, our Tom Schuba and Andy Grimm report.
  3. Chicago officials plan to repurpose a former elementary school on the city’s South Side into a temporary shelter for newly arrived immigrants. The move could be met with protests in Woodlawn if city officials don’t hold more community forums about the shelter, said Ald. Jeanette Taylor, whose 20th Ward includes the property.
  4. In our latest Watchdogs investigation, we focus on city workers who have been suspended for driving on runways at O’Hare Airport. Our Robert Herguth has more on the unsafe actions here.
  5. After new guidelines were laid out by the U.S. Census Bureau this week, 10 Illinois counties and even more cities within them were newly designated as “rural.” The change matters because rural and urban areas often qualify for different types of federal funding for transportation, housing, health care, education and agriculture.
  6. Nicor Gas has donated $5 million to a program that helps customers with their heating bills and other necessities. Customers may apply for a Shield of Caring grant beginning Jan. 16. The $250 grants are applied to Nicor account balances.
  7. And, as 2022 comes to a close, we’re sharing an inside look at how we covered the year and how we’re approaching 2023, featuring reflections and behind-the-scenes details from Sun-Times journalists and photographers. You can find our full year in review series here.

A bright one

For Chicago artist Rahmaan Statik, painting ‘Black Panther’ murals was ‘a childhood dream come true’

Fans of Marvel’s “Black Panther” movies don’t have to go to a theater to see the franchise’s characters. They also can see them in two murals on the South Side.

In time for the recent release of the series’ second installment, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” a mural by Chicago artist Rahmaan Statik that features three of the film’s characters recently went up at 606 E. 61st St. in Woodlawn.

At 89th Street and Commercial Avenue in South Chicago, an earlier mural done by Statik features Chadwick Boseman, the late actor who starred in the first “Black Panther” movie. Statik didn’t have any financial support for the Boseman mural. The building on which he painted it was vacant at the time, so Statik just started painting — a return to his roots as a graffiti artist.

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“Wakanda Forever” by muralist Rahmaan Statik at 606 E 61st St in Woodlawn.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Statik later was chosen to paint the Woodlawn mural, which was commissioned by Marvel and Disney in promoting “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Statik used the South Chicago mural as part of his pitch to paint the one in Woodlawn. Similar promotional murals were done in New York and Los Angeles.

Born in Woodlawn, Statik, 42, lives in the South Loop and has long been a fan of superhero stories. He says painting the murals was a “childhood dream come true.”

Mary Norkol has more with Statik here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s the best way to start the new year?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What is your new year’s resolution?

Here’s what some of you said...

“To try and be better and kinder to everyone.” — Alice Doloughty Morley

“To really get into shape.” — Bernadette Bertone

“To be more understanding and try to see things from other people’s perspective before coming to a dead set answer or view on an issue.” — Victoria Wisinski

“Drink more Old Style baby!” — Guero Gallardo

“Disable all social media — maybe.” — Xóchitl Gutiérrez

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition — have a Happy New Year!Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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