Reforming in 2019

From the Desk of John McLees:

As we proceed into the new year, there are a number of developments, upcoming events, action items and new resources that that deserve our attention and that we have mentioned in our most recent update.  They will be on the website: in the near future.  Thanks to everyone who continues to alert us to things that deserve attention from this group and others.

Of particular note are :

  • The Reimagining Prison Report of the Vera Institute of Justice and the recent report of the Columbia University Justice Lab on Emerging Adult Justice in Illinois, which together have provided the basis for the launch last week by the Juvenile Justice Initiative of its Reimagine Justice Policy Academy in Illinois, and
  • The report released last week by the Vera Institute of Justice on Investing in Futures – Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prisons, which promises to provide a sound basis for the legislative effort now underway in Congress, as a part of the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965, to repeal the 25 year old ban on Second Chance Pell Grants for prisoners, which could result in the reinstatement of hundreds of college level education programs in state and federal prisons.

As we start the new year, here is a link to the recent statement of Michelle Alexander, a great champion of criminal justice reform, in The New York Times, declaring that it is:  Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

This is a message to carry with us as a call to daily action as a priority for 2019.  Organizations like the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace have recognized the connection between campaigning for recognition of Palestinian human rights and working to combat racism and to address the moral crisis of mass incarceration in the United States.  We also need to make that connection and to join with Michelle and others in breaking our silence on Palestine.

Holiday Update for Justice Reform

From the Desk of John McLees:

The  new update contains information on some new volunteer opportunities and an accumulation of reports and articles that have appeared in past couple of months that deserve our attention, including:

  • a National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction and a webinar that you can access on how to use this new resource,
  • an extensive Reimagining Prison Report issued by the Vera Institute for Justice, and
  • a report of the Urban Institute on Father Reentry and Child Outcomes, exploring children’s behavior when a father is incarcerated and when he is released,

Along with recent news on state and Federal legislation and on our incoming governor’s new Committee on Restorative Justice and a reminder to sign up for the regular news reports of The Illinois Justice Project and the Marshall Project.

We have once again highlight the contact information of more than 60 organizations that are working to improve our criminal justice system and that deserve our support in 2018.  You can contribute to them, and learn more about the work that they are doing, online at their websites.  Please do consider picking four or five or more whose work inspires you.

As in the past, feel free to forward these messages to others who may be interested in learning more about how the criminal justice system operates and how we can all contribute to improving it, and let them know about the opportunity to get on the distribution list for these messages and about this website which is updated to contain the same information.

We wish each of you a season of joy and reflection at the holidays and many moments of satisfaction and success in the new year.

‘Tis the Season of Giving

We, the CDLU, have spent hundreds of hours creating this digital resource center and updating this website regularly.

As we approach Giving Tuesday and the end of the year, here is a list of more than 60 organizations that are working to improve our criminal justice system and deserve our support.

You can contribute to them, and learn more about the work that they are doing, online at their websites.

Pick four or five or more whose work inspires you, and don’t forget us, the CDLU.

As a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization, all donations to the CDLU are 100% tax-deductible.

We appreciate your consideration.


Judicial Retention and Events

From the Desk of John McLees:

The judicial retention elections on November 6, 2018 will give all of those in Cook County the opportunity to help in bringing more justice into that portion of our criminal justice system.  The 2018 Cook County Judicial Voting Guide developed by Injustice Watch which is available here:

The guide provides information about each of the 59 judges up for retention, including four whose records on criminal justice issues are bias, negligent, and unconscionable.

  • Michael Clancy – who has failed to follow the Chief Judge’s order limiting the use of cash bail –



  • Matthew Coughlin – who is credibly accused of involvement in framing innocent men for murder


  • Maura Slattery Boyle -whose errors have resulted as almost as many reversals on appeal in the past 6 years as all of the other five criminal court judges on the retention ballot put together –


  •  Michael McHalewhose contact with prosecutors and evidentiary rulings in favor of the prosecutors have resulted in reversals and accusations of bias –


There is information in the section of this website on Getting Involved about several important upcoming events in which we can still participate in later this month, including a free day-long symposium on October 30 on addressing the impact of mass incarceration on our communities and the annual luncheon of the Appleseed Fund for Justice on October 26.

Work also continues on efforts to eliminate the incarceration of those accused of a crime because they are poor by the imposition of cash bail in excess of what they can afford.

Unique Opportunities to Explore Issues of Criminal Justice Reform

Injustice for All Film Festival

The annual Injustice For All Film Festival.  It will take place over 10 days from October 4 through 13 and will include the showing without charge of more than 50 films at 16 locations throughout the city, exploring our current criminal justice system – police, courts, and corrections – and the causes and drivers of over incarceration.  The full schedule of films and venues is available at:

This year’s festival includes films that focus on  three major themes:

  • The Criminal (In)Justice System and the Epidemic of Mass Incarceration
  • Racism and White Supremacy
  • Human Rights, with an emphasis on Human Trafficking, Immigration and Domestic Violence

Please join in these events, and the other upcoming events described in the attached summary of ways to get involved in criminal justice reform, and continue to support these and other organizations that work for change and that support those who are incarcerated or who have been  released from prison.

Autumn of Justice Reform in Chicago

From the Desk of John McLees:

The fall offers many opportunities to continue our focus and involvement in efforts to advance the cause justice in our criminal justice system.

The update on opportunities and resources for Getting Involved in Criminal Justice Reform contains links to information about an array of events and opportunities to get involved in advocacy and volunteer activities, as well as links to important new reports from David Olson, The Illinois Justice Project, The People’s Lobby, Chicago Appleseed, Injustice Watch and others about incarceration trends in Illinois, the positions on criminal justice issues of the candidates for Illinois Attorney General, progress in the Cook County States Attorney’s office, treatment of the mentally ill in our jails and more.

In the area of advocacy, we would draw your attention to the need to act now, as discussed below, in joining the broad coalition that is promoting the Fair Housing Initiative to overcome barriers facing those who have been incarcerated in obtaining access to decent housing in Cook County.

The Fair Housing Initiative For Increasing Housing Opportunities in Cook County for Those Who Have Been Arrested or Incarcerated

As noted before and as described in more detail at, this effort focuses on the campaign to gain support from members of the Cook County Board of Commissioners for amending the Cook County’s Human Rights Ordinance to prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to individuals on the basis of having an arrest record, and from implementing a policy of not renting to anyone who has been convicted of a crime.  (Landlords’ would still be entitled to consider a prior conviction among all other factor in each individual case.)

We can each help:

  • by getting churches and other organizations of which we are members to join the large coalition of organizations that have endorsed this proposal, using the Endorsement Form attached here, and
  • acting now to get individuals to voice their support, by

-writing to Patricia Fron at to obtain quantities of the individual endorsement cards that the coalition has prepared in the form shown at,

-distributing them to be signed by residents of Cook County and

returning the signed cards to Patricia by October 15 for sorting and forwarding to the appropriate Cook County Commissioner.