Category: Criminal Justice

Under the glare of the spotlights, grief

Under the glare of the spotlights, grief
She could tell by the way the phone rang. “I was at work. I was actually in a meeting. Something about the way the phone rang. … I said, ‘Let me get this phone call,’” Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton recalled. She picked up the phone. What would follow was a story that became known around the nation.... Read more »

Taxpayers have spent more money incarcerating people than educating them in areas impacted by school closings

No other school district in the country has attempted to do what Chicago Public Schools is planning to do this fall: close more than one in 10 school buildings, the vast majority of them in African-American communities. “With CPS losing enrollment, officials insist that the closings are needed to ‘right-size’ the district, to save money... Read more »

Bill would give businesses that hire ex-offenders bigger tax credits and more

Bill would give businesses that hire ex-offenders bigger tax credits and more
It’s known as “the box”–the little square that job applicants are expected to check on an employment application if they have a criminal record. Cities and states around the country have passed laws to mitigate the effects of “the box” for ex-offenders. Now, Springfield is approaching the issue from a different direction–giving businesses an incentive... Read more »
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Video: A community mourns at the funeral of 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins

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Hundreds gathered at New Beginnings Church of Chicago for the funeral of 6-month-old Jonylah Emani Watkins. One week earlier, the baby was shot in the South Side’s Woodlawn neighborhood, according to the Chicago Police Department. —Produced and photographed by Jonathan Gibby and Lucio Villa

Will mandatory prison time for gun possession charges make Chicago safer?

The debate over how to stop the bloodshed in Chicago headed south last week as Illinois lawmakers took up a bill that would put more people with guns behind bars–for longer. There is a logic behind HB 2265, which was introduced by state Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from west suburban Riverside. The argument: that... Read more »

Video: One former drug offender devotes his life to helping other ex-offenders

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Between 2000 and 2011, nearly 150,000 Chicago defendants received a prison sentence in the Cook County Circuit Court. The majority of them were from poor neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides. Raymond Richard was one of those people. At one time, he lived on the streets of Chicago and turned to drugs and... Read more »
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SLIDESHOW: Community mourns death of 6-month-old baby girl

Jonylah Watkins’ mother, center, is comforted after a press conference and vigil for her slain daughter.
Updated 3/25/2013: On March 12, about 200 people attended a press conference and vigil honoring Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old baby who was fatally shot a day earlier in the South Side’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The Chicago Police Department initially reported, and later retracted, that Jonylah was shot multiple times, and that her father was changing her... Read more »

A long winding path for government transparency

About this time last year, Mick Dumke, a senior writer at the Chicago Reader, decided that he wasn’t going to bite his tongue any more. Dumke and I had privately been going back and forth about how to pry court records from the office of Dorothy Brown, the clerk of Cook County’s massive court system.... Read more »

A behind-the-scenes look at Cook County public defenders' heavy caseloads

A behind-the-scenes look at Cook County public defenders' heavy caseloads
It’s been 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anyone facing criminal charges has a right to an attorney even if they can’t afford one. The decision came out of a case called Gideon vs. Wainwright and was settled in 1963. During that era, the criminal courts looked a lot different than they... Read more »
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Advocates hope prostitution laws will shift focus away from sex workers

Advocates hope prostitution laws will shift focus away from sex workers
Sex workers, and not their pimps or johns, continue to bear the disproportionate brunt of policing efforts against prostitution, but there is hope a legislative change is on the way. Illinois is one of just nine states in which second prostitution offenses can be upgraded to a felony charge. While pimps and traffickers are technically... Read more »