Victory Against the Sales Tax! Now What?

Fellow organizers, friends, and supporters,

We at BPNJ would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all members of our community who have come together to address the issues of mass incarceration and jail construction in Champaign County. We are very lucky to have such strong support in promoting programs within our county that divert our friends and neighbors from jail cells into journeys of healing and justice.

Our county overwhelmingly voted NO against this referendum!

While we will take a moment to celebrate this victory we know that it is but one part of a larger picture of decarceration. We are excited to move forward in our work and would like to offer the following steps (see below) as a place to start.

We would also like to say a special, “Thank You!” to everyone who dove into this campaign against the sales tax referendum and volunteered their time and energy handing out flyers, distributing and displaying yard signs, attending meetings, building relationships with collaborating organizations, making phone calls, sending emails, hosting films and discussions, using social media, and so much more. Champaign-Urbana continues to prove that it cares about these issues and that people will show up for their community.


Members of Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana held a rally in opposition to the sales tax at which Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons officially stated she was also against the referendum that would have spent millions on jail construction.                                         Photo credit: Jeff Putney

Specific organizations and individuals that were integral to the success of this campaign include the Graduate Employees Organization Solidarity Committee, Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana, Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons, Urbana Alderman Aaron Ammons, the North End Breakfast Club, Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, Champaign County board member Josh Hartke, Champaign County board member Matt Hiser, incoming board member Robert King, incoming board member Kyle Patterson, Laura Wisekamp, and from the documentary “13th” James Kilgore, Cory Green, and Malkia Cyril.

Lastly we would like to invite you to attend our upcoming meeting on Monday, November 14th at 6:30pm at the IMC (202 S. Broadway, Urbana). Let’s start this post-election season together and not just to defend against jail construction but to actually build real-life alternatives to mass incarceration.


The BPNJ Coordinating Committee



November 8, 2016

The vision that Build Programs Not Jails holds for the future of Champaign County is a just and thriving community where everyone is valued and has equal opportunity.  In coalition with the Graduate Employees’ Organization, Black Lives Matter – Champaign-Urbana, and the North End Breakfast Club we have opposed the so-called public facilities sales tax referendum because it would make it too easy for the County Board to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on jail construction that would move the county further from this vision.

We thank the voters of Champaign County for taking this issue seriously and defeating the referendum, and we pledge to continue to fight for alternatives to incarceration.   

We now call on the County Board to shift directions:  to prioritize decreasing the jail population through investing in diversion, prevention, re-entry, and basic needs. We encourage the new board to take a leadership role in advancing criminal justice reform and in addressing issues of poverty, racism, and inequality in this county.   This includes urgently moving forward on the following key steps to achieving our vision of a fair and thriving community:

  • Provide Necessary Facilities in the Community – It is essential that people can access these services directly in the community, without first having to come into contact with the law enforcement system:
    1. Mental health and substance abuse treatment centers
    2. Shelter for homeless people
    3. Transitional housing for those returning from prison
  • Reform the Criminal Justice System – Many current procedures unfairly impact people of color (particularly Black people) and low-income families,  increase recidivism, and cost more in the long run
    1. End cash bail
    2. Establish a pretrial services program
    3. Make fees and fines more fair
    4. Provide resources for the Racial Justice Task Force
    5. Use money freed by retired bonds to fund alternatives to incarceration
    6. Close the downtown jail
  • Support the Champaign County Nursing Home – the Nursing Home is important to the quality of life of both its residents and their families, especially those that are Medicaid recipients.

A few members of Build Programs, Not Jails stayed up late last night to watch election results roll in and share our vision with the press.

Build Programs, Not Jails can be reached at

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