Cook County President: Jails Are Intersection of Racism & Poverty, More Judges of Color Needed
Deborah Bayliss | 9/5/2013, 12:59 p.m.
Cook County Board Commissioner, Stanley Moore, held his first annual 4th District Economic Development Forum in conjunction with the Chatham Business Association (CBA) at the QBG Foundation building (806 E. 78th St.) last week.
Moore was joined by Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, her procurement and compliance officers Shannon Andrews and Jackie Gomez; Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership representative, Karin Norington-Reaves; Cook County Forest Preserves Superintendent, Arnold Randall; Cook County Dir. of Capital Planning, John Cooke; George Coleman from the City of Chicago; and Dwayne Pierre-Antoine, The Gordian Group. All served as panelists for the event.
Preckwinkle began her discussion by explaining the County’s area of responsibility is public health and public safety.
“About 35 percent of our budget is public health and we’ve recently gotten permission from our federal government to start enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obama Care, early, so that they can get the kind of broad coverage and access to primary care for those who are uninsured and have not had access in the past,” Preckwinkle said. “Because of the ACA, we’re now able to get support from the federal government for those people we’ve provided care for, for free in the past. It was free to them but at a cost to the tax payers.”
Preckwinkle also explained the County’s public safety component.
“We incarcerate and detain entirely too many people and they are almost entirely black and brown,” said Preckwinkle. “We run a jail that has 10,000 detainees. Most people think those people are serving sentences but they’re not, only ten percent of them are serving a sentence. The jails are the intersections of racism and poverty.”
Preckwinkle continued by making it clear that the County needs more judges of color .
“Almost everybody who comes before a judge in our court system is African American and Latino,” Preckwinkle said. “If you looked at our jail population, you’d think there are no white people in Cook County and I mean it. Almost every young man that was coming before a judge was black or brown. Of the 90 percent of detainees, 70 percent are awaiting trial for nonviolent offenses. We’re in the business of running a large pre-trial, detainee facility and we’ve got to figure out how to support alternatives to detention and we’re focused on those accused of nonviolent crimes. The people who are waiting in jail are those who cannot afford their bail that’s why I said jails are at the intersection of racism and poverty. ”
Additionally, Preckwinkle addressed her plan to spur the County’s economic development.
“We’ve created a Bureau of Economic Development. We’ve asked Herman Brewer who some of you may know from his days at the Urban League, to head up our Bureau of Economic Development. We have our capital planning, our community development, our building and zoning all in one place now so that we can be more focused and strategic about the way we use our resources. We’re also working closely with transportation and highways because the investments you make in transportation has an impact on the opportunities for economic development and likewise if you have a plant or store and you don’t have good access by roads and bridges, it’s hard for that business to do well.