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Annual Report

Dedicated to Eliminating Barriers.

Social and economic justice isn’t just a goal, it’s the right of every resident in our region.

That’s why the Community Renewal Society is so deeply committed to informing, organizing and training both communities and individuals to advocate for social and economic justice.

You can see all the work we’ve been doing to advocate for social and economic justice and eliminate barriers of race and class in our latest Annual Report.



  • Led the passage of Public Act 100-0284 (HB 2373), which expands eligibility for felony records to be sealed as part of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). This is the largest sealing expansion that Illinois or any other state has ever passed!

    Illinois finally has a full-year state budget with new permanent revenue! In collaboration with the Responsible Budget Coalition, we advocated to end the devastating cuts, repair some of the damage that has been done, and make smart investments in the future.

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    • #2017

    Led the passage of four bills in 2016 through the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI):

    Schools Publict Act 99-0667 (HB 4360) increases employment opportunities in schools and puts hiring decisions back in the hands of local school districts.

    Health Care Licenses Public Act 99-0886 (SB 42) creates licensing opportunities for qualified health care professionals like nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and dental hygienists with forcible felony convictions.

    Park Districts Public Act 99-0884 (SB 3005) increases employment opportunities in park districts and allows local park districts to hire the best candidates for jobs

    UNLICENSED HEALTH CARE Public Act 99-0872 (HB 4515) improves the health care waiver process and increases job opportunities for people with criminal records

    Police Accountability
    The Office of Inspector General of Policing was created by the Chicago City Council to provide police oversight as a result of our FAIR COPS campaign and our February 24, 2016 report, “Who Watches the Watchmen?” which highlighted the need for a police auditor.

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    • #2016

  • Passed HB 494 in the Illinois General Assembly in collaboration with other criminal justice advocates. This bill removes life-time barriers to employment in schools for men and women with criminal records.

    Conducted an 8-week Court Watching Program with over 60 volunteers in the summer of 2015 which found that Cook County Chief Judge Evans was keeping his commitment to reform bond court by increasing the number of low-risk detainees who are released on non-monetary bonds from 20% to 60%.

    Helped to pass HB 356, the Cook County Drug Analysis Field Test Pilot Program, in the Illinois General Assembly. This initiative is piloting drug analysis field testing in Chicago so that defendants facing controlled substance charges have their preliminary hearings faster and spend less time in Cook County Jail.

    The Reclaim Campaign advocated for and secured commitments from President Preckwinkle and Sheriff Dart to close and tear down 3 units of the Cook County Jail, which will save the county millions of dollars over the next decade that can be invested in violence prevention and community-based diversion; and advocated for and won the expansion of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s deferred prosecution program.

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    • #2015

  • As a result of a Reclaim Campaign that included public meetings of over 400 people, in-district meetings, and powerful turnout from CRS at County budget hearings, Cook County Commissioners created a new $500,000 fund for community-based Restorative Justice.

    Helped block HB 5672 from passage, which proposed new and increased mandatory minimum sentences that would increase the population in Illinois’ already overcrowded jails and prisons.

    Won several commitments from Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans aimed at reducing the population of Cook County Jail and increasing alternatives to incarceration, including a new Restorative Justice Diversion pilot program that will divert 100 non-violent or low-level arrestees to approved Restorative Justice Peace Hubs.

    As part of the End Demand Illinois coalition, helped to pass SB 3558 to fund meaningful community-based services for survivors of human trafficking and encourage a more effective law enforcement response to end demand for sexual exploitation.

    Worked with the Raise Illinois Coalition to pass HB 3814 adding a non-binding advisory question to the November 2014 ballot asking if the minimum wage should be raised to $10 per hour for adults in Illinois by January 1, 2015.

    Successfully advocated with the Sweet Home Chicago Coalition for the Cook County Land Bank to prioritize affordable housing, local hiring, and community input in its decision making regarding land transactions.

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    • #2014

  • As a member of the Safety First Coalition, CRS helped pass SB 957, to provide a path for undocumented people in Illinois to receive drivers licenses and auto insurance.

    Worked with the End Demand Illinois coalition to pass SB 1872amending the sentencing provision for prostitution in the criminal code to a Class A misdemeanor and deleting the felony sentence enhancement

    Helped to pass HB 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, which created a four-year pilot program during which individuals with serious diseases could buy limited amounts of medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries.

    Angela Caputo and Kimbriell Kelly, journalists for CRS’ The Chicago Reporter, received a Sigma Delta Chi Award for journalism, a long-standing and prestigious national award given by the Society of Professional Journalists. They received it for their investigation that looked at the way public housing residents are being kicked out by the Chicago Housing Authority’s One Strike policy.

    The Chicago Reporter received a National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence award for “Abusing the Badge,” a May 2012 investigation that took the top prize in the investigative reporting category for magazines under 1 million circulation.

    María Inéz Zamudio has been accepted as a New York Times Fellow for “The Changing Face of America: Inside the Latino Vote and Immigration Reform.

    The Chicago Reporter won seven Peter Lisagor Awards honoring exemplary reporting, graphics, photography and TV programming in 2012

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    • #2013

  • The High HOPES Coalition, convened by Community Renewal Society, passed extensive changes in the Chicago Public School Student Code of Conduct to move CPS away from punitive discipline and toward Restorative Justice.

    Advocated for the unfreezing and repayment of the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Rental Housing Support Program Fund in partnership with Access Living and Housing Action Illinois, a campaign that resulted in the restoration of more than $20 million for affordable housing

    Worked with the End Demand Illinois coalition to pass SB 5278 which amended the Criminal Code to ensure that Illinois’ anti-trafficking laws are applicable to the methods used by sex traffickers today, allowing for State’s Attorneys to prosecute offenders more effectively.

    Helped to pass charity care legislation, as part of the Fair Care Coalition, that requires all Illinois hospitals to use a universal application and standards of presumptive eligibility for un-insured, under-insured, low-income persons who need free or reduced hospital services.

    Convened the third annual criminal justice symposium - Serving Our Communities: Alternatives To Incarceration - on October 12, 2012 with presentations by experts from Seattle, Washington's LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) Program, the Wisconsin Community Justice Reinvestment in Milwaukee, and Illinois Adult Re-Deploy in Macon County.

    The Chicago Reporter won eight of the Chicago Headline Club's Peter Lisagor Awards that honor exemplary reporting, design, graphics and photography.

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    • #2012

  • Won funding for vital services for children of incarcerated parents through the Department of Human Services.

    Gave leadership to amending the criminal record sealing law of 2008, to give the courts the discretion to seal records of felony cases that ended in either dismissal or acquittal of the charges or reversal or vacation of a conviction, thereby allowing eligible individuals to seek gainful employment without the stigma of a criminal record.

    Led the effort to create Illinois’ first state-wide environmental justice legislation, forming an Environmental Justice Commission that will address whether current state laws and policies ensure that no community-- regardless of race, age, or socioeconomic status--bears a disproportionate portion of the state’s environmental pollution.

    As a part of the Responsible Budget Coalition, created new funding to protect crucial education, healthcare, and human services for Illinois residents.

    Held the second annual criminal justice symposium - Drug Policy Reform: A Christian Imperative? - on April 11, 2011 with presentations by theologians, policy experts, service providers, and legislators exploring why Christians should care about drug policy.

    Angela Caputo and Kimbriell Kelly were awarded a 2011 Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for “Stolen futures,” an investigative package about teens prosecuted as adults, mostly for nonviolent offenses.

    Kelly Virella and Kimbriell Kelly, along with WBEZ’s Natalie Moore, won the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Award in the multimedia collaboration category for “Taser timeout,” an examination of excessive Taser use at a Kankakee County jail where Cook County detainees are often sent.

    Angela Caputo, Kimbriell Kelly and Alissa Groeninger won the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor award in the in-depth reporting in a magazine with circulation under 20,000 for “17”—an investigation of teens prosecuted as adults, mostly for nonviolent offenses.

    Joe Gallo, Jon Lowenstein and Mark Abramson won the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Award for photography in a magazine with circulation under 20,000 for their photography on the “17” investigation.

    Christine Wachter won the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Award for graphics in a magazine with circulation under 20,000 for her graphics documenting the path teens take from juvenile to adult court, the millions of dollars spent on job training yielding meager results and the overrepresentation of black youth in the child welfare system.

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    • #2011

  • In partnership with Jane Addams Senior Caucus, passed landmark nursing home legislation which doubled the amount of staff care low-income African-American seniors received at many South side nursing homes.

    Won commitments from the Illinois Department of Corrections to transform its family services and visiting areas and procedures for children of incarcerated parents.

    Provided leadership to the Faith Table of the Responsible Budget Coalition, working to raise Illinois income tax as part of a comprehensive solution to solving the state’s budget crisis by engaging faith leaders in face-to-face legislative advocacy, including delivering a petition with over 1,000 signatures to every member of the General Assembly.

    Collaborated with the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University to present New Directions for Drug Policy in Illinois, the first drug policy reform symposium to be held in the Chicago area with presentations by drug policy experts in the medical, legal, and legislative fields.

    Kelly Virella, Rui Kaneya and Kimbriell Kelly were awarded the Herman Kogan Award, in the print category, by the Chicago Bar Association for “Above the Law,” an investigation of the Illinois State Police’s practice of ignoring thousands of court orders to seal and expunge criminal records.

    Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Kimbriell Kelly, Jessica Young and Jennifer Fernicola won the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Award in the specialty category for magazines with a circulation below 1 million for “Lower Standards,” which exposed racial disparities in the quality of care and staffing levels at Illinois nursing homes.

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    • #2010

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Building Relationships for Systemic Change

Annual Reports 

At Community Renewal Society, our approach to faith-based community organizing and public policy advocacy is focused on systemic change and is based on relationship-building.  

Each Annual Report becomes a testament to each and every person who has been involved in this vital work. The following Annual Reports are a visible record of our organizational footprints, showing where we’ve been and heralding where we’re going.

 Funding Innovative Projects

Don Benedict Fund

CRS honors the memory of former Executive Director Don Benedict by funding innovative pilot projects within Illinois which address a major urban issue effectively in a three to five year period. Priority will be given to projects within the Chicago metropolitan area.