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Quick Hit
by Matthew Blake
4:35pm
Tue Jul 10, 2012

Downstate Lawmakers, Union Work To Undo Prison Closures

AFSCME Council 31, the state’s main public employees union, and a group of state lawmakers vowed today to undo Gov. Pat Quinn's closing of corrections facilities, including Dwight women’s prison and Tamms supermax prison, during the fall veto session.

Overriding Quinn’s decision requires 3/5 approval from the House and Senate. Any vote would take place in November – after the scheduled closings of Tamms and Dwight.

With that timetable in mind, Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said in a press conference call today that the union might take legal action.

Quick Hit
by Matthew Blake
5:25pm
Tue Jun 26, 2012

Stricter Pot Ticketing Ordinance Set To Clear Chicago City Council

An ordinance pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana punishable by ticketed fines will likely sail through city council tomorrow amid some concerns that the $250 to $500 tickets are too steep a levy against the low-income, black residents who are often targets of marijuana arrests.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), the ordinance's sponsor, is not currently considering any amendments including changing the fine, according to Solis spokesman Stephen Stults.

Quick Hit
by Matthew Blake
2:42pm
Tue Jun 26, 2012

Controversial Tamms Closure A Triumph For Prison Reformers

Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to shutter Tamms Correctional Center, effective August 31, in order to save money is a landmark victory for prison reform advocates who spent a decade fighting to close the facility that has held inmates for years in 24-hour solitary confinement.

“We are ending the era of solitary confinement,” says Laurie Jo Reynolds, an organizer with the Tamms Year Ten coalition, which ran a legislative campaign to close the prison. Reynolds noted that other states, such as Mississippi and Maine, also recently shut down solitary confinement facilities and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) conducted a Senate hearing last week on solitary confinement.

But Quinn’s unilateral action goes against the wishes of the Illinois General Assembly. It also further alienates the governor from AFSCME Council 31, the union representing many of the state's public employees. The union is steadfastly against the closings and other Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) shut downs, even though the governor's office says the moves will result in no public employee layoffs.

Quick Hit
by Matthew Blake
4:31pm
Thu Jun 21, 2012

Black Caucus Aldermen Voice Concerns As Pot Ticketing Plan Advances

The Chicago City Council committee on public safety voted 13-1 today for an ordinance pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to change possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil violation punishable by fine.

The committee hearing raised questions about how fines would be implemented, particularly if they might disproportionately hurt black residents in low-income neighborhoods who make up about 75 percent of the of Chicago Police Department's pot arrests.

“This will raise dollars on the backs of poor people,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) at the hearing. Dowell and other black caucus aldermen, such as Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), raised these concerns, but did not vote against the legislation.

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