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Justice Reform & Police Accountability

blind-justiceFor decades, BPI has worked to strengthen neighborhoods around Chicago and throughout the region.  This experience leads to an inescapable conclusion:  In its current form, our criminal justice system is both a consequence of and a contributor to racial and economic injustice.  Deeply flawed, it is in need of urgent reform, for the sake of both the health and well-being of our communities and the individuals who live in them.

POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY

In 2016, BPI served on the Legal Oversight and Accountability Working Group of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, and was active in the effort to enact two vital structural reforms, creating the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and the Office of Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety. Currently, BPI is working with a coalition of community organizations from across the city to develop a meaningful community-driven process to help to build trust between the community and the police department and to ensure that reforms that move forward are informed by those affected most by policing in the city.

Learn more about BPI’s police accountability work

JUSTICE REFORM

Mass incarceration is among the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Over-reliance on prison and jail, coupled with the racial and economic inequities within the criminal justice system, have devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities, and questionable public safety benefits.  We cannot achieve a just society without systemic reform.

BPI’s overarching goals in justice reform are to reduce Illinois’ prison and jail populations, reduce recidivism, and increase reentry opportunities. Current BPI initiatives include:

Community Supervision and Alternatives to Incarceration

In Illinois, more individuals are assigned to community supervision programs (probation, parole, and mandatory supervised release) than are incarcerated. BPI’s work focuses on:

  1. Transforming community supervision into a cost-effective alternative to incarceration that is rehabilitative and evidence-based, and provides individuals with sustainable exit pathways from the criminal justice system.
  2. Expanding and enhancing safe and effective alternatives to incarceration at the state and county level.

Reentry Housing

For the tens of thousands of people who exit Illinois prisons and jails in Illinois each year, securing quality affordable housing is often an impossible task. BPI is working to expand opportunities for reentry housing in Illinois, including reducing the barriers of a criminal record to housing access.

Past initiatives have included:

  • State IDs: Helping to equip incarcerated youth and adults leaving confinement with an official state ID, a prerequisite to finding housing, securing a job, enrolling in school, or applying for public benefits and health insurance.
  • Juvenile Justice Reform: Reducing the youth prison population, while expanding and improving community-based housing, health and supportive services.

History/Milestones

October 2016:  The Mayor and Chicago City Council approves an ordinance creating two new stronger and better funded entities to investigate police misconduct:

  • A Civilian Office of Police Accountability
  • A Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety

April 2016:  The Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force produces a series of hard-hitting recommendations to reform a badly broken system.

February 2016:  State legislators approve the closure of the Kewanee Youth Detention Center as the number of youth in prison drops.

2014:  BPI partners with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) to craft a comprehensive operating plan designed to:

  • Reduce the number of imprisoned youth
  • Ensure that higher-risk youth receive intensive and comprehensive services
  • Provide better support services when youth return to their communities.

Staff

Recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

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