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The youth activists of #NoCopAcademy offer a vision of a different Chicago


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: The youth activists of #NoCopAcademy offer a vision of a different Chicago

  • Federal prisons official used prison labor for work on his church

  • New York City looks to eliminate hidden bail fees

  • Announcing moratorium on California’s death penalty

  • After postponing hundreds of detention hearings, immigration judges now advance cases with little notice

  • Charging a 16-year-old with disabilities as an adult was in his best interest, say prosecutors and a judge

  • Experiencing the deadly temperatures in Texas prisons

In the Spotlight

The youth activists of #NoCopAcademy offer a vision of a different Chicago

Today is the Chicago City Council’s vote on the new police academy slated for construction in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. The training academy has been fiercely opposed by the youth-led #NoCopAcademy campaign since it was proposed in 2017. Yesterday, the council’s Budget Committee approved a construction contract with the scandal-plagued company AECOM. [John Byrne / Chicago Tribune]

After activists occupied City Hall for 10 straight hours yesterday, the City Council seems determined to push the plan through today without the presence of dissenting voices. On Twitter, there were multiple reports that protesters were prevented from entering the meeting.



#NoCopAcademy’s opposition to the plan has been twofold: Its activists argue against investing nearly $100 million more into policing despite decades of police violence, and they argue for directing that money instead to schools, mental health care, and youth services that go underfunded. Organizers point to the record numbers of schools closed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and the shuttering of half of the city’s mental health clinics. In November 2017, Josmar Trujillo wrote for The Appeal that “intense opposition against the academy …  has come to symbolize a broader battle by youth activists to curtail police power.” Nearly 40 percent of the city’s general budget in 2016 went to policing, and Chicago has more police officers per capita than any other city. The youth of #NoCopAcademy, Trujillo wrote, challenge policing’s “budget superiority.” [Josmar Trujillo / The Appeal]

Despite the City Council’s determination to move ahead with the academy, #NoCopAcademy’s achievement is evident—five mayoral candidates this year ran on platforms opposing construction of the new academy. While many of them agreed that the federal consent decree that went into effect last week required better training of police officers, they argued for other, less costly ways to achieve that goal. Two of them, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, are now in a runoff. [Jonah Newman / Chicago Reporter]

At a sit-in at City Hall last March to oppose the plan, Juanita Tennyson of the group Assata’s Daughters said that if she had tens of millions of dollars “for my community, I would open up mental health clinics, a suitable grocery store, and put better quality into the education of the schools in my community. The mayor needs to be held accountable for all the money being pulled from the resources for the Black and brown youth around Chicago.” [Prince Shakur / The Appeal]

During the City Hall meeting that day, the activists of #NoCopAcademy shared the results of their survey of 500 residents of West Garfield Park, conducted with door-to-door canvassing. One member reported on the overwhelming opposition they heard to the plan. ”Our final question on this survey is,” she said, “‘What would you do with a $95 million investment in the West Side?’” In response: “We got 877 community recommendations from people in that community.” The most popular had to do with investing in schools and community services (including mental health clinics and substance abuse clinics), and addressing homelessness in the area.

At the die-in at City Hall that same day, protesters held cardboard gravestones with the names of people killed by the violence, and schools and mental health clinics closed by the city.

For well over a year now, youth activists have rallied community organizations, mayor and other local government candidates, and even Chance the Rapper to their cause. They have taken to the trains to educate riders and been at City Hall for rallies, sit-ins, and die-ins. That it has taken so long for Emanuel to see his plan come to fruition is in part a testament to their work. And while the city aldermen have repeatedly acquiesced to the academy plan, many candidates to replace incumbents have opposed it.

The young people of #NoCopAcademy have been explicit about the importance of youth activism, power, and vision for a different future. Paige May, co-founder of Assata’s daughters spoke with Mic last spring:

“One thing that was important to us was that the [#NoCopAcademy] campaign really centers young people’s leadership, like 18 and under,” she said. “Laquan McDonald was 17. Mike Brown was 18. We absolutely have to have young people present to understand the extent of what policing looks like and to develop full solutions.” [Rachel Anspach / Mic]

Mic reported that “in addition to teaching community organizing and leadership skills, May said that much of organizing young people is about offering basic support to enhance their well-being. This means providing money to take the bus to meetings every week, transportation to actions and hot food at all meetings. After interviewing for this story, May planned to spend her evening doing laundry for a few young people who didn’t have a place to wash their clothes.” [Rachel Anspach / Mic]

May explained the goals, beyond any specific campaign: “Hopefully, some of them go on and become the next Fannie Lou Hamer and the next Malcolm X…But maybe they also want to become the next Neil deGrasse Tyson, or they want to become the great black teacher that our children deserve. Our goal is to make sure that you learn how to do that in a way that loves and supports your people.” [Rachel Anspach / Mic]

Stories From The Appeal

 

Illustration by Anagraph

Federal Prisons Official Used Prison Labor For Work on His Church. The Bureau of Prisons’ South Central regional director utilized incarcerated people from a Texas prison to work on a landscaping project at his church. [Lauren Gill]

New York City Looks to Eliminate Hidden Bail Fees. As they await statewide action to eliminate cash bail, city councilmembers are looking for ways to reduce the financial burden on families of incarcerated people. [Bryce Covert]

Stories From Around the Country

California governor will issue death penalty moratorium today: Governor Gavin Newsom has said he will issue a moratorium on the death penalty today, halting executions in California. Newsom’s prepared remarks say: “I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people.” While the governor does not have the power to end the death penalty, Newsom’s decision will move 787 people off California’s death row, the country’s largest. Though the reprieve is in some ways symbolic—the state’s last execution was in 2006—it will add fuel to abolition efforts nationwide. Former Governor Jerry Brown had been urged to commute the sentences of people sentenced to death before leaving office but he took no action on the issue. Commutations of any sentence for someone with a previous felony action requires the approval of a majority of the state’s highest court. California voters previously rejected initiatives to abolish the death penalty. [Tim Arango / New York Times]

After postponing hundreds of detention hearings, immigration judges now advance cases with little notice: Hundreds of immigration hearings were postponed at the Varick Street courthouse in Manhattan last year. ”A total of 316 hearings in New York were postponed in Fiscal Year 2018 due to video malfunctions,” according to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs the immigration courts. The information was provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by WNYC. Last year, the court ended in-person detention hearings, replacing them with videoconferencing technology instead. Public defenders have also alerted WNYC to the news that detention hearings are now being advanced with little notice. On Friday, they were told that some hearings, scheduled for later this spring, will be heard as early as next week. Brooklyn Defender Service’s Andrea Sáenz told WNYC that the short notice is problematic given the complicated arguments and documents from home countries required in, for example, asylum cases.  [Beth Fertig / WNYC]

Charging a 16-year-old with disabilities as an adult was in his best interest, say prosecutors and a judge: Nola.com/Times-Picayune looks at Cadarius Jackson’s “disappearance into the limbo between the state’s criminal justice and mental health systems” after his arrest in Louisiana in 2013. Cadarius, then 16, called 911 multiple times one morning. The sheriff’s deputy who responded alleged that Cadarius tried to kill him with a kitchen knife. The deputy was not injured. Cadarius’s defense attorney remembered him after his arrest as “malnourished, gaunt in fact” with “almost disabling levels of motor impairment.” Cadarius was charged in adult court with the attempted murder of a police officer. Prosecutors and the judge continue to defend the decision. The judge told Nola.com, “With his being charged as an adult, we were able to make sure he was safe and properly cared for.” In 2015, Cadarius was found to be “irrestorably” incompetent to stand trial, and was civilly committed. He is in the maximum security unit of a state psychiatric hospital. His mother “describes him as being medicated to the point of being unintelligible,” when he calls her and “she occasionally hears voices in the background urging him to hold his head up and speak into the phone.” [Katherine Sayre / Nola.com/Times-Picayune]

Experiencing the deadly temperatures in Texas prisons: At the Texas Capitol yesterday, state lawmakers were challenged to “Beat the Heat”—sit inside a mock prison cell for three minutes. Texas Prisons Air-Conditioning Advocates is raising awareness about the deadly summer temperatures inside prisons that are not air conditioned. A bill pending in the state legislature would require that the temperature in state facilities be maintained between 65 and 85 degrees. Prison officials acknowledge that 22 people have died from extreme heat inside state prisons in the past 14 years. Last year, the state settled a class-action lawsuit over conditions at Wallace Pack Unit, where the temperatures regularly climb to over 100 degrees in the summer. The temperature inside the mock cell was a little over 90 degrees. [Paul Cobler / my SA]

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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