Yard Signs and Printed Materials Available!

We’ve got yard signs! If you’d like to adorn your yard or window with one please contact us or visit us at the Market at the Square (at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana) every Saturday until election day. They are free or if you’d like, by a donation amount of your choosing.

We also have several printable materials you can use to share information about the sales tax with your friends and neighbors. See our resources page here.

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Is the Sales Tax a Jail Tax? BPNJ to Host Public Forum Oct. 5th

There have been many questions about the “Public Facilities” sales tax referendum that will be on the ballot in our county this November. To help dissect this controversial ballot measure, Build Programs Not Jails will be hosting an educational panel and discussion.

Wednesday, October 5th at 6:45pm in the Champaign Public Library, Robeson Room A

Panel members include impacted community members, volunteer activists that work with incarcerated individuals, and people familiar with the referendum history. Urbana Alderman and long-time activist, Aaron Ammons, will moderate the panel that explains the details of the referendum, lays out possible alternative paths for solving the county’s facilities issues, and outlines the case for opposing the sales tax referendum. A dialog with the audience will follow the panel.

Light food and refreshments will be available.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/299178067129448/

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BPNJ Delivers Community Statement Against Jail Referendum

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People leaving the Champaign County Board meeting last night were met with a window full of anonymously placed signs calling for an end to jail funding and anti-Black racism.

Last night Build Programs, Not Jails delivered a statement cementing our position against a sales tax referendum that would heavily fund jail construction in our county. The referendum passed the board with a vote 15-2 in favor of the 1/4 cent sales tax increase for “public facilities” and will be on the ballot for voters in November.  Unfortunately, the current proposal allocates millions of dollars towards expanding the satellite jail facility and has zero funding for alternatives to incarceration.  The proposal also fails to mention strategies for dealing with Champaign County’s high rates of racial disparity in the jails.  Several community members showed up and spoke against the jail construction on the proposal and vowed to fight against the referendum up to election day. Below is the statement delivered by BPNJ and cosigned by the Young Democrats, the North End Breakfast Club, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Graduate Employees Organization, and Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice.

Last week the County Board’s Committee of the Whole voted in favor of placing a referendum on the November ballot for a ¼ percent sales tax to pay for “public facilities” purposes. We fully recognize that the county has pressing maintenance needs, particularly in regard to the county’s public nursing home.  We also recognize that the use of these funds will be determined on an ongoing basis by the sitting County Board.  However, based on the Facilities Action Plan that was presented as background to the referendum, by far the largest portion of immediate spending will be for jail building. This is unacceptable.  Apart from directing too much money toward jail construction, we reject the proposal the Board is recommending on four other grounds:
1.       A decision on constructing or renovating jail space  should be made in the context of considering how to decrease the number of people incarcerated, and only after that is addressed should jail construction be included in a proposal on facilities and maintenance.  Given the serious incarceration debate that has taken place in our community, any attempt to address issues of jail construction must be considered as part of a political process which examines the criminal justice system as a whole and includes participation by the community. We must pay special attention to including the Black community, which has been most seriously impacted by incarceration.
2.      The Facilities Action Plan neglects virtually any measures that would keep people out of jail or reduce jail numbers. While the jail is labeled as an immediate priority and is put in Group A, the only proposal to reduce the incarcerated population is for a Behavioral Health Services Facilities, which is in Group C: “Projects in this group are conceptual only. They require further study relative to the construction and operational costs to be incurred as well as funding strategies.” As an important alternative to incarceration and the absence of behavioral health services in our county, this project should be a top priority in the critical group, not at the bottom of the list.
3.      The presentation of the Facilities Action Plan claimed that between closing the Downtown Jail and new construction at the Satellite Jail there would be a considerable decrease in the overall jail capacity, whereas in fact it is only a 10% decrease from 313 to 282 (additionally, not all cells in the downtown jail are currently available for use).  The presentation also said the plans for the jail reflected a 40% decrease in cost compared to the 2015 Sheriff’s Office Master Plan, not recognizing how outrageously expensive that plan was.
4.      The referendum proposal was presented in the context of the Facilities Action Plan, which outlined priorities and allocations of funding. However, when members of the public attempted to criticize that plan, we were told the plan meant nothing, that the next board would develop the actual plan. This appears to be a conscious deception calculated to obscure the essence of the board’s intention and to cover up the excessive funding to be directed to the jail.

Likely the debate over jail construction has been the most hotly contested political issue in this county in decades. Incarceration is unnecessary for the majority of people who are arrested, and can further disrupt people’s lives, especially for low-income individuals.  However, the county board’s referendum is a quick-fix solution aimed at ignoring the problems and solutions that the community has brought to this board for the last four and a half years.  We reject this plan and hope that the county will come forward with a solution to these problems that breaks with the history of excessive reliance on incarceration to solve social problems, and which contributes to eliminating the racial disparity that has become a persistent feature of our county jail.  It is time for a new direction.

Signed,
Build Programs, Not Jails
North End Breakfast Club
Young Democrats
Students for Justice in Palestine
Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
Graduate Employees Organization

Stop the County Board’s Latest Scheme to Fund Jail Builing! – Urgent Action

Stop the County Board’s Latest Scheme to Fund Jail Building – Urgent Action Required!

Tuesday, August 9th 6:30pm at the Brookens Administration Building (1776 E. Washington St. Urbana)

What’s happening?

The Champaign County Board is sneaking a multi-million dollar satellite jail expansion package within a “Facilities Action Plan” that they will discuss on Tuesday, August 9th and vote on on Thursday, August 18th. In an attempt to mask the plan for building more cells at the satellite jail facility, the county has included within this plan necessary repairs and maintenance of other facilities in with the proposal. Unfortunately, the current proposal allocates approximately 65% of the money for law enforcement purposes, including 36% ($18 million) for renovating and expanding the satellite jail, closing the downtown jail, and moving the sheriff’s offices. It has zero funding for much-needed alternatives to incarceration.

 This a “jail referendum” NOT a “facility referendum” as it is being advertised.  

For years, Champaign-Urbana citizens have voiced their opposition to further jail construction and have asked the board to push for alternatives to incarceration, including a mental health crisis facility. The current proposal does not allocate a single cent of immediate funding from the sales tax  for facilities and programs that will keep people out of jail. Community members have also asked for attention towards and information about the deaths of three Champaign residents who died in the jail within a 7 month period; deaths which have yet to be adequately addressed by county officials.

Routine maintenance on county facilities and continued advocacy for critical community programs for the health and safety of our county deserves support. However, we remain in opposition to expanding the satellite jail and feel that this “Action Plan” put forth by the board comprises much needed maintenance by attaching millions of dollars in unpopular jail construction.

Mobilize to the board meeting on Tuesday, August 9th at 6:30pm at Brookens Admin. Building (1776 E. Washington St., Urbana) and stop the board from proceeding with this jail building referendum!

The referendum proposal can be found here: Referendum proposal 2016 facilities sales tax August 2016

Build Programs, Not Jails

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URGENT ACTION

The death of Veronica Horstead last Friday, June 10th, makes three deaths in the Champaign County jail in just over 6 months. We ask that our fellow community members join us at the Champaign County board meeting, Tuesday, June 14th 6:30pm to bring this crisis of recent jail deaths to the attention of the board. (The meeting is held at Brookens Administration Center, 1776 E. Washington St. in Urbana.)

Facebook event for this action is located here.

BACKGROUND ON RECENT JAIL DEATHS:

“A recent rash of deaths has taken place in the Champaign County Jail, with three deaths in just over six months. All three were African American, in a jail where Blacks make up 60-70% of the daily population. They were each well-known in the community and will be sorely missed.

• On Friday, June 10, 2016, Veronica “Love” Horstead (48) was found unresponsive in the jail. She was the mother of a six-year-old, and a 2014 graduate of Eastern Illinois University, but for years had struggled with drug addiction. Those who knew her say she had a smile that would brighten up a room.

• On Easter Morning, March 27, 2016, Paul Clifton (59) was pronounced dead of “natural causes,” after multiple asthma attacks in the jail. He had been arrested late night at his home for a warrant of driving on a suspended license. After graduating from Urbana High School, he attended Morehouse College.

• On December 1, 2015, Toya Frazier (45) laid presumably dead in a solitary cell for nearly an hour and a half before being discovered by jail guards. She had spent the previous night screaming from the pain of heroin withdrawal.

We will address the Champaign County Board during public comment on Tuesday night, June, 14, 6:30 p.m. at Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington, Urbana.

These deaths reflect a serious situation in our county criminal justice system. We lack adequate social services, especially for people with problems of addiction. Instead, we are locking people in jail where their life is at risk. The County Board and the Sheriff need to recognize that we have a crisis, assume responsibility for what is happening, and take appropriate measures to make sure we don’t see a repetition of these tragic and avoidable deaths.”

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Veronica Horstead died in the jail June 10th, 2016

BPNJ Presents on Racial Disparity and Criminal Justice

On Thursday, April 14th we delivered a presentation to the Racial Justice Task Force on our work and research into racial disparity in the Champaign County criminal justice system. We also made some suggestions for areas we felt needed further investigation. We have compiled all pieces of our presentation here in this post and in our “Resources and Links” page of this site for public access. We appreciate the RJTF allowing us time to present and encourage our county to pursue alternatives to incarceration.

Linked here is part of our supplemental packet given to the county board (please see the additional inserts listed below):

Supplemental Packet Provided to the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force, April 14th, 2016

Inserts, slides, and infographics are listed here:

Overview of Recommendations to Champaign County Regarding the Criminal Justice System by CJTF, ILPP, and NIC

Jail Population Snapshot: 2015-09-02 Infographic on jail population 4

Who is in the Champaign County Jail?

Finally, all slides from our presentation can be accessed here: Jail Snapshot for RJTF.pptx

 

 

 

 

 

The Racial Justice Task Force Bursts Onto the Scene

by Evelyn Reynolds

The Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force met for the first time on Thursday, February 11 at the Brookens Administrative Center.  The task force consists of 21 members, just one person shy of the number of Champaign County Board members.  However, it wasn’t the size of the group that struck the attention of audience members that evening.  It was the fact that there were no microphones or video recording equipment in the room.  When audience members inquired about the notable absence, County Board Chair Pattsi Petri stated that the task force “has no budget”.  Task force member Maryam Ar-Raheem commented that she felt the omission of microphones was a “hostile act”.  Based on the nodding of several member’s heads, the sentiment seemed to be shared.

The meeting began with a motion by Ester Patt to move public comments to the beginning of the meeting instead of the end, as listed on the meeting agenda.  After some discussion, the members unanimously voted for the change.  Comments from the public included: outrage over the missing microphones, the lack of monetary resources for the task force, encouragement to let the members direct the group, the significance of race in all areas of analysis, and disparities in the local criminal justice system.

While the meeting was mostly method-oriented, some important decisions were made.  The group decided that they would rather work together as one group (at least initially) with a focus on policing and the criminal justice system, rather than dividing into three working groups that would place emphasis on mental health, employment opportunities, and housing.  Petrie suggested that a facilitator be chosen from the group to organize future meetings.  Sam Byndom, Director of Urbana Adult Education was chosen as facilitator.  At the start of the meeting Francena Turner of Black Lives Matter C-U had been chosen as meeting recorder.  Once the power was shifted from the County Board Chair to the task force members, things started to roll!  The group decided that their current mission statement was vague and not aligned with their ideas of what the task force should focus on.  They decided to rescind the mission statement and write their own.  One area of contention in the mission statement was that the task force would have 18 months to provide a final report.  Having been enacted in October, but not meeting until February only leaves the task force 14 months to complete their work.  Many members felt that a correction should be made or that additional time be given to sum the 18 months.  This issue, along with the omission of microphones will be presented at the next County Board meeting.

By the meeting’s end, Pattsi Petrie was dismissed from the task force, and two Black members emerged in positions of leadership in the group which consists of nearly half Black folks.  In just one meeting, the Racial Justice Task Force became what many members of Build Programs, Not Jails, Black Lives Matter C-U, and other activist groups had envisioned and requested at numerous County Board meetings.  The task force includes individuals who are dedicated to justice and unafraid to confront racism.  With adequate support this group can carry out important work, and provide comprehensive recommendations for racial justice.

Evelyn Reynolds is the co-founder and a lead organizer in Black Lives Matter Champaign-Urbana. 

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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.