Illinois Humanities is pleased to share the March 24, 2020 edition of the Envisioning Justice Digest. For those unfamiliar, the Envisioning Justice Digest is a collection of news articles and resources discussing justice reform efforts, law and legislation, and various issues that fold into this multipronged system of mass incarceration.
We are sharing this digest on our site because we would like to acknowledge this period of uncertainty and the unfortunate challenges facing our nation, state, and communities as we attempt to collectively respond to the outbreak of COVID-19. We recognize the impact this is having on our day to day lives and we are especially sensitive to what this moment means for the currently incarcerated, working-class families, and our friends and partners in the arts and cultural community.
The number of efforts arising to support the very communities, in which Illinois Humanities is the most engaged, is incredibly inspiring and we want to make sure that we do our best to amplify these efforts on all of our platforms. While this digest is by no means comprehensive, it includes many emergency COVID-19 response resources, context on how this pandemic affects the currently incarcerated, and examples of how communities are responding on hyperlocal levels to support one another.
If you would like to sign up to receive the Envisioning Justice Digest twice a month you can email email@example.com. If you have additional resources, news, and events that you like us to share in future digests, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illinois Humanities' Envisioning Justice News
Illinois Humanities, in the interest of not contributing to the spread of COVID-19, is suspending all Illinois Humanities programming through Monday, May 11. Staff will be working remotely, and all work-related travel is being canceled. Our team is trying our best to adjust, support one another, and be thoughtful about how our work continues or evolves during this time.
Illinois Humanities is now accepting submissions for the fourth annual Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards – open to youth poets from across Illinois! To learn more about how youth can submit their poems and for more information on poetry writing workshops that we’re offering, please check out the website here. Deadline: May 15th.
In light of this, Illinois Humanities has rescheduled our planned Envisioning Justice trips to Carbondale and East St. Louis to July of 2020. Our first trip will now be to Champaign-Urbana and Decatur in June of 2020. While these dates are still tentative and reliant upon COVID-19 developments, we are hopeful and open to speaking with organizations and individuals who are interested in partnership, conversant in their respective community’s needs, and working to imagine and create a more just world in all of the aforementioned areas.
The Envisioning Justice Community Hubs met virtually last Friday, March 20th. Each organization is thinking creatively about how to continue their work and support their respective communities amidst this period of social isolation. We also discussed how to best support one another’s efforts and how we can collectively respond to social justice issues arising from this global pandemic.
EJ Community Hub Circles & Ciphers is encouraging creative expression during this practice of social distancing. They’ve introduced the #SocialDistanceChallenge on social media, which calls for people to submit freestyles, poems, artwork, songs, Tik Tok/triller videos, or overall thoughts about the virus/quarantine. Circles & Ciphers will be accepting submissions until April 1st, and cash prizes will go to the top three videos. If you’d like to submit, make sure you use #SocialDistanceChallenge and tag @circles_ciphers on your Instagram and Twitter posts!
Our friends and grantees Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project have postponed their benefit A Gold We All Need until August 29, 2020. Support from our community is an essential part of realizing the creative and scholarly work PNAP does behind the wall and in our communities. At this event, guests will enjoy lively conversation, food & drinks, and music, along with an auction of works donated by artists and writers.
This is the perfect time to watch We Are Witnesses: Chicago, a series of video interviews from The Marshall Project and Kartemquin Films, about people’s experiences with the criminal legal system. These videos were co-produced by Illinois Humanities as a part of the Envisioning Justice exhibition and can be streamed online here.
Over the past two years, Illinois Humanities has supported and amplified community-based responses to the effects of incarceration and visions of a more just future. Through Envisioning Justice, Illinois Humanities awarded grants to support arts programming in carceral facilities, documentation efforts centered around justice reform, and storytelling meant to grow awareness and civic dialogue. You can learn more about the Envisioning Justice grants program and the funded projects here.
For more about Envisioning Justice, please check our website and the wonderful articles/interviews about the initiative from Sixty Inches From Center. Check out the running list of reports and resources related to criminal justice and criminal legal reform efforts, too.
Since in-person events have been canceled for the immediate future, Illinois Humanities would like to highlight the Beyond the Bars Conference that the Envisioning Justice team attended a few weeks ago in New York City. We are excited to share that the team at Beyond the Bars has graciously provided public access to performances, panels, and plenaries that took place during the conference. The Envisioning Justice team found our experience incredibly transformative, and we invite you to hear about the critical work and ideologies pushing our society towards decarceration and reimagining justice.
Resources & Situational Awareness
Our friends at 826CHI created a list of resources for artists, freelancers, hospitality, workers, and caregivers during this time of social distancing and temporary closings of business.
If you’re concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people involved in the criminal legal system, check out this resource from The Justice Collaborative that includes links to recommended guidelines, fact sheets, and advocacy activities.
With public health officials siting jails and prisons for their potential to spread COVID-19, justice reform advocates have been pushing for the release of vulnerable populations. This includes the elderly, those with upcoming release dates, and those incarcerated because of their inability to pay cash bail. The Justice Collaborative recently shared a press release, New Report: Poll Shows Strong Cross-Ideological Support for Dramatically Reducing Jail and Prison Populations to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus. Based on their findings, more and more citizens are in support of decreasing jail populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
You can sign this petition to request that Kim Foxx consider the immediate resentencing of elderly people serving Cook County sentences, who pose an extremely low risk of recidivism, but whose continued incarceration poses substantial risks to ongoing statewide efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Chicago Community Bond Fund is encouraging citizens to call the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Chief Judge to demand they decarcerate in the name of public health.
Fair and Just Prosecution released a joint statement by 34 prosecutors addressing the rights and needs of those in custody amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They also outlined the steps towards dramatically decreasing jail populations and the likelihood of a rapid spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons.
The Marshall Project has been keeping track of prison responses to the COVID-19 outbreak across the United States. You can find information about the changes happening at prisons around the nation here.
My Block, My Hood, My City has created a campaign to ensure that seniors have access to hand sanitizer, health supplements, toiletries, and food.
Artists and performers are struggling as shows are shut down. This independent group of artists has created a Chicago Artists Relief Fund to help those suffering from financial instability. Similarly, there is a Chicago Hospitality Employee Relief Guide with several links for individuals to contribute to employee funds and to purchase online gift cards.
Forefront has compiled a list of emergency funds and other collective actions that have been created across the state in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Lawyers for the Creative Arts has created a new service to provide free legal consultations to those in the arts struggling with coronavirus-related legal issues. Lawyers for the Creative Arts connects those in the arts community to volunteer lawyers able to represent them. The coronavirus crisis has dramatically increased the needs of the arts community for a rapid response, so they’ve created a new service to address those needs. The LCA Brief Service Response Center went live last Tuesday. It’s a simple application enabling those in the arts to receive a prompt telephone consultation with one of their lawyers about issues like performance cancellations, employment benefits, government programs, and so on. They also provide, and continually update, a list of resources that apply specifically to the arts community.
Immigration & Deportation
Please check out groups like Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD) or La Villita Se Defiende for up to date about ICE activities in Chicago and resources to share with those potentially affected by these activities. Also, please see this “Know Your Rights” resource from the ACLU.
“ICE to scale back arrests during coronavirus pandemic” from POLITICO
“ICE won’t accept bond money in Chicago for detained immigrants, agency says” from The Chicago Tribune
Public Safety & Community Relations with Law Enforcement
“If police officers get the coronavirus, who will patrol the streets?” from The Chicago Tribune
“CPD patrols stepped up as businesses hunker down for stay-at-home order” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“Torture survivors’ silence will not protect the Chicago Police Department” from The Chicago Reader
Community Health & Developments
“Drive-thru COVID-19 test site opens on NW Side to first responders, health professionals” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“Blood Donations Badly Needed During Coronavirus Outbreak, Officials Say” from Block Club Chicago
“Brave Space Alliance Opens Crisis Pantry For South Side LGBTQIA Residents” from Block Club Chicago
“Low-risk inmates begin exiting Cook County Jail amid coronavirus threat” from The Chicago Reporter
“As life in Chicago largely comes to a halt, shootings continue on South, West sides” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“COVID-19 South Side Community Resource Guide” from The South Side Weekly
Incarceration, Prosecution & Punishment
“Pastors pray outside Cook County jail for release of inmates to help protect them from the coronavirus” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“Two COVID-19 cases identified at Cook County Jail” from The Chicago Tribhttps://chicago.suntimes.com/coronavirus/2020/3/22/21190339/cook-county-jail-coronavirus-correctional-officer-tests-positive-covid-19une
“Officer at Cook County Jail tests positive for coronavirus” from The Chicago Tribune
“Low-risk inmates begin exiting Cook County Jail amid coronavirus threat” from The Chicago Tribune
“Coronavirus shapes a new role for houses of worship and faith communities” from The Chicago Reporter
“Coronavirus: Will courts continue to operate, preserving the rule of law?” from The Chicago Reporter
“Pritzker must act now to prevent coronavirus devastation behind bars in Illinois” from The Chicago Reporter
“Commentary: Jail detainees need more consideration during coronavirus crisis” from The Chicago Tribune
“Coronavirus, Cook County Jail, and the need to reduce the inmate population . . . fast” from The Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Votes: Unlock Civics is working at the intersection of organizing and advocacy to ensure that people affected by the American legal system have access to their civic rights and responsibilities. They need your support in signing on to their Unlock Civics legislative platform for 2020! Find out how to support here.
Race & Economic Justice
“Our Government and COVID-19 Coronavirus: Watch what they do and not what they say!” from The Chicago Defender
“Coronavirus Patients, People Who Are Homeless To Move Into Hotel Rooms During Outbreak” from Block Club Chicago
“Here’s how to apply for unemployment benefits if you are out of work during Illinois’ COVID-19 shutdown” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“New federal sick leave law – who’s eligible, who’s not and how many weeks do you get” from The Chicago Reporter
“No Parking Tickets Issued Amid Coronavirus Spread? Not On This Chicago Block” from Block Club Chicago
“In Case of Emergency: Artist Resources For You, For Us” from Sixty Inches From Center
“To prevent the potential for COVID-19 (coronavirus) exposure, the Illinois Department of Corrections, after consultation with the Illinois Department of Public Health, is temporarily suspending all visits effective March 14 until further notice.” from Illinois Department of Corrections
“Stateville prison, Will County jail taking preventive measures in response to coronavirus” from The Joliet Herald
“Incumbent Kim Foxx Wins Democratic Primary for Cook County State’s Attorney” from The Chicago Defender
“Trump angrily tweets at Pritzker after gov criticizes feds’ COVID-19 supply shortages” from The Chicago Sun-Times
“Cook County Circuit Court to dramatically scale back operations due to coronavirus” from Injustice Watch
“Are Illinois prisons equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic?” from The Southern Illinoisan
“CCBF and Allies Join Public Defender’s Petition for Mass Release of People from Cook County Jail” from The Chicago Community Bond Fund
Across the Nation
“Close Immigration Prisons Now” from The New York Times
“Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan” from Federal Bureau of Prisons
“Coronavirus has transformed policing in the US, as officers scramble to get tested, stay safe” The Peoria Journal Star
“Coronavirus: The Prison Population” from NPR
“I Want to See my Child.” Juvenile Lockups Cut Visits Over COVID-19 Fears” from The Marshall Project
“From mutual aid to dual power in the state of emergency” from ROAR Magazine
“No return to normal: for a post-pandemic liberation” from ROAR Magazine
“Police Tread Lightly as Pandemic Spreads” from The New York Times
“Coronavirus Transforming Jails Across the Country” from The Marshall Project
“Why Jails are Key to Flattening the Curve’ of Coronavirus” from The Appeal
“What Do We Really Know About the Politics of People Behind Bars?” from The Marshall Project
“How Coronavirus is Disrupting the Death Penalty” from The Marshall Project
“What Coronavirus Quarantine Looks Like in Prison” from The Marshall Project
Job and other Opportunities
For the People Artist Collective is redirecting funds awarded to them through Field Foundation’s Fall 2019 grant for Community Empowerment through Justice, Art, Media & Storytelling and Leadership Investment. They’ve created a limited amount of emergency microgrants for up to $500 to Illinois-based artists and freelancers of color whose income has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to an overwhelming response, the application is currently closed, but please check back next for a potential reopen if they collect more funds to redistribute. Share with your networks to donate at this link.
Crossroads Fund is accepting proposals for its Critical Response Fund. This fund is meant to provide organizations with funding to protect, empower, and support community members in this time of heightened racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and xenophobia. Crossroads seeks to support work that expands their notions of what is possible and is oriented towards building the world that we need, through new and unconventional movement collaborations and coalitions that bridge issues and sectors. If you are interested in applying, please send a brief paragraph description of your proposed project/funding need to email@example.com. Deadline: May 29, 2020.
The Chicago Artist Relief Fund was created by Chicago-area artists in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They aim to support our colleagues in the greater Chicago arts community who are experiencing financial repercussions due to pandemic-related cancellations. Priority will be given to BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] artists, transgender & nonbinary & queer artists, and disabled artists – but they aim to help as many Chicago-area artists in need as possible. Their ability to do that will depend on how much money they can raise. If you’re an artist with resources to spare, please consider contributing to support your colleagues. If you’re a lover of the arts, please consider contributing directly to the individuals who devote their lives to creating for our city.