Update on the Racial Justice Task Force

The proposal for the creation of a Racial Justice Task Force in Champaign County came out of a set of recommendations presented by the Community Justice Task Force’s final report to the county board in 2013. (This recommendation can be found here: RJTF – Recommendation of the Community Justice Task Force) While this recommendation had been largely ignored by the County Board, groups like Build Programs, Not Jails along with the local NAACP, North End Breakfast Club, Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, and the local chapter of Black Lives Matter began to again emphasize the need to establish such a task force to investigate and address racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Many individuals from these and other groups reached out over the past year to Champaign board members as well as to the community to put pressure on the county to establish such a task force. Community members showed up in incredible numbers to several board meetings where the task force was being discussed. Numerous individuals spoke and a petition of approximately 500 names supporting a Racial Justice Task Force in Champaign County was submitted to the board.  A straw poll on October 13th revealed that most of the board members would support a Racial Justice Task Force and on October 22nd it was approved by the board.

There has been some confusion about the version of the Racial Justice Task Force that was approved and whether or not it was adequate in its current form. Two resolutions were presented to the board, both written by Champaign county board members – not community activists or any outside organizations. However, community members did provide some input into the longer version. The shorter resolution did not include any specific criteria for membership on task force or number of members; the longer one specified inclusion of representatives from the cities of Urbana and Champaign and identified areas of expertise that would be useful for task force members to possess. The shorter resolution was approved; it can be found here:

http://champaigncountyclerk.com/county_board/resolutions/r09001_10000/r09405.pdf

The longer version that included some community input and was not approved can be viewed here: RJTF Resolution-Long Version

From the beginning of the push for the Racial Justice Task Force, Build Programs, Not Jails has emphasized the need for this task force to be effective and substantial. To clarify this we submitted an open letter to chairwoman Pattsi Petrie and the Champaign County board on Nov. 10th. Our letter can be found here:

https://programsnotjails.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/open-letter-delivered-to-county-board/

We believe that the recommendations we made are critical to the success of the Racial Justice Task Force. Despite our concerns with the initial framework for the task force drawn up by chairwoman Pattsi Petrie, as a group we reached out to several members of the community to encourage them to apply to the Racial Justice Task Force. To our knowledge, several individuals involved with pushing this initiative have indeed applied for positions on the task force.

We look forward to seeing the formation of this task force become more democratic and if our recommendations are met we remain hopeful that it can address the over criminalization and incarceration of Black members of Champaign-Urbana.

 

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