Afternoon Edition: April 21, 2022

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

SHARE Afternoon Edition: April 21, 2022

Stateville prison outside Joliet.

Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 70 degrees. Tonight will be increasingly cloudy with a chance of showers and a low around 46. Tomorrow will see showers, a chance for thunderstorms and a high near 60.

Top story

Washington group blames Illinois prison population’s nearly fourfold rise since 1970s on ‘extreme’ sentencing laws

A Washington-based criminal justice reform group says Illinois’ “extreme” sentencing practices have resulted in a nearly fourfold increase in the state’s prison population since the early 1970s.

Many of those inmates are elderly, and more than 60% of the people in Illinois serving life sentences or prison terms of 15 to 40 years are Black even though African Americans make up less than 15% of the state’s population, FAMM says in a report being released today.

In 2020 and 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic posing a particular risk to those in the close quarters of prison, Illinois authorities reduced the prison population by commuting sentences, paroling inmates and refusing to accept all convicted criminals from county jails.

In 1970, 7,326 inmates were in the prison system. The population hit a peak in 2013 with nearly 50,000 inmates. By the end of 2019, though, the population had fallen to 38,145 and to 27,857 by the end of 2021, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.

The FAMM report says the decrease in the overall prison population over the past decade “mostly left behind older individuals and people who have already served many years, groups that present a low risk of reoffending.” Illinois spends more than $300 million a year to incarcerate people who have served at least 15 years.

The group’s recommendations include repealing the state’s mandatory sentences and enhancements, making those reforms retroactive, rolling back “truth-in-sentencing” laws that limit how much time inmates can be released early for good behavior and reinvesting the savings it says would come from taking those steps in services for crime victims and programs for inmates reentering society.

Frank Main has more on the FAMM report here.

More news you need

  1. Bicycle advocates renewed calls for safety improvements along Madison Street in the West Loop today after a cyclist died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver days earlier. The cyclist, 42-year-old Paresh Chhatrala, died yesterday after being hospitalized in critical condition with injuries to his head and body.
  2. The American Lung Association ranked the Chicago metro area’s levels of smog and particle pollution among the top 25 in the country for severity based on the group’s review of annual data from the EPA. Compared with a review of the previous year’s analysis, Chicago showed a slight improvement for lower amounts of fine particle pollution but recorded more days of unhealthy conditions due to smog.
  3. Local military brass, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a couple hundred other invited guests gathered today to celebrate the opening of a U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit office in the city — the first in the Midwest. The innovation office works with commercial businesses to “rapidly prototype” already available technologies to tweak them for military uses.
  4. Donald Breede, part of the second of four generations of the same family to run Hagen’s Fish Marketa, has died at age 77. Breede used to say he believed in the Portage Park store’s founding motto: “Never sell anything you won’t take home to your own family.”
  5. Demolition on the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church continued today, as church leaders launched a fundraising campaign and vowed to rebuild on the same site. The church caught fire last Friday, and the smoldering building reignited several times over the past few days, including briefly yesterday, the day demolition began.
  6. Candymaker Mars said today it will start construction this summer on a $40 million expansion of its research center on Chicago’s Goose Island. The expansion would make the research center the largest innovation hub in the world for the Mars Wrigley line of candy and gum.

A bright one

New piping plover spotted on Rainbow Beach

A new piping plover was spotted on Rainbow Beach late Tuesday afternoon, but it may have been just a rest stop, not a nest stop.

It was the first known sighting in the area since the famous plover couple, Monty and Rose, departed Montrose Beach on the North Side last year.

The newest plover was identified Wednesday by the University of Minnesota Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team as Of,bY:X,G, a 5-year-old female. She has nested since 2018 at Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in its Maritime Museum area, and winters in Lee County, Florida.

A new piping plover was spotted at Rainbow Beach late afternoon Tuesday. She was identified as Of,bY:X,G, a 5-year-old female who has nested since 2018 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

A new piping plover was spotted at Rainbow Beach late afternoon Tuesday. She was identified as Of,bY:X,G, a 5-year-old female.

Provided/Ian Sarmiento

After the Tuesday appearance in Chicago, the bird apparently continued on to Sleeping Bear Dunes, where it was spotted yesterday morning.

Chicago Ornithological Society President Edward Warden will lead a cleanup at Rainbow Beach on Saturday. He said Rainbow Beach is considered by some experts to be the next most likely place, following Montrose Beach, for piping plovers to show up and potentially nest.

A new sighting of a piping plover is encouraging, Warden said.

Cadence Quaranta has more on the piping plover sighting here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s the best way to enjoy a sunny, warm day in Chicago?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What do most movies and shows get wrong in their depictions of Chicago?

Here’s what some of you said…

“There are so many open parking spaces on the street when they pull up to apartment buildings.” — Ellen Trzaska Japczyk

“Regular African American people who work, take care of their property, enjoy their neighbors, enjoy their pets and enjoy their families. Just like all other races.” — Jeanine Davis

“Every time someone needs to get from point A to point B, regardless of time of day or place to place, they head south on Lake Shore Drive at dawn.” — Rick Reineke

“That the L runs very often when in reality you could freeze to death on the platform waiting for the train.” — John Zarem

“Chicago is actually a beautiful city! Especially in the summer. Yes, it’s a tale of two cities! The beauty and the beast! But the beauty — diversity, different cultures, food, events, etc make priceless memories.” — Sammie T Shields

“That everyone is a Cubs fan and hangs on Oak Street Beach.” — Kevin Moon

“Where the L stops are. That everybody has a ‘Chicago’ accent. No giant parks. No beaches. Takes 10 minutes to get to an airport. That lower Wacker is where all car chases happen.” — Jason Epperson

“That there are actually pretty and handsome police officers with highlights.” — Brandon Cruz

“The Old Post Office is not Gotham PD.” — Omar Ramos

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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