Today, we are marching to State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office, on behalf of the thousands of Cook County residents that make up the Community Renewal Society, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and Southside Together Organizing for Power, to deliver Deadly Inaction: A Proposal for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to Prevent Violence, a set of concrete, research-supported proposals to reform the Cook County criminal justice system and reduce violence in our neighborhoods. We are forced to take this action because of State's Attorney Alvarez's continued refusal to meet with us or commit to take any new action for change.
Our communities are being destroyed by the twin evils of violence and mass incarceration. As pastors and community leaders we have seen far too many lives cut short by violence, and witnessed the damage that violence does to entire neighborhoods. At the same time, we stand opposed to our county’s response, which has focused on ever-increasing incarceration. Our county jail is filled overcrowded with mostly low-income, African-American and Latino people, the majority of whom are charged with non-violent crimes. We know that we cannot incarcerate or punish our way out of violence. What are truly needed are resources to empower our communities to heal through community-based Restorative Justice violence prevention, substance abuse treatment, and mental health care. Unfortunately, as a county, we cannot focus on these areas because we spend over $500 million a year on a failed system of incarceration.
In September, after requesting a meeting with State's Attorney Alvarez for over nine months, we finally met with her and presented five concrete ideas to reform the Cook County justice system and invest in real violence prevention. To our dismay, she said no to each one and refused to have a follow up meeting with us. As violence and unjust detention tear our families and communities apart, we cannot be silent, so today we march to State's Attorney Alvarez's office to present our proposals to her in a clear format and call on her once again to:
- Expand current diversion programs informed by best practices;
- Partner with communities to create and fund a new, pre-plea Restorative Justice diversion pilot program;
- Institute felony review for drug cases;
- Support legislation to shorten the number of days a person can be held between an arrest and a preliminary hearing;
- Support the commitments Judge Evans made to the Reclaim Campaign.
Our organizations stand united behind these well researched proposals for action. We hope to stand with State's Attorney Alvarez to address these vital issues but remain committed, as public organizations to taking action to achieve the goals that our communities need. We call on State's Attorney Anita Alvarez today to prayerfully study this report, Deadly Inaction: How Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez Can Act to Prevent Violence, and to meet with our leadership in the next 30 days to discuss substantive changes her office can make to achieve these goals.