First District Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who represents Oak Park and parts of River Forest, has co-sponsored the Justice for Black Lives resolution.
The resolution states the county “shall redirect money from the failed and racist systems of policing, criminalization, and incarceration that have not kept our communities safe, and will instead invest that money in public services not administered by law enforcement that promote community health and safety equitably across the county, but especially in Black and Brown communities most impacted by violence and incarceration.”
Those areas and public services include housing, health care, mental health, restorative justice, job creation, public transit, eviction/foreclosure and minority contracting.
“This resolution is the first step in a series of measures designed to bring justice, equity and equal protection under the law in the second largest county in the nation,” Johnson said in a joint statement he released with five other co-sponsors of the resolution.
Although the resolution is largely ceremonial and non-binding, it could nonetheless have an impact on the county’s budget process, Johnson said.
According to the resolution, “across the country, spending grows on traditional law enforcement and incarceration with no correlation to metrics of success such as clearance rates or sense of safety.
“For example, despite a 50 percent decrease in the number of people incarcerated in the Cook County Jail between 2013 and 2020, the Cook County Department of Corrections budget grew 26 percent over the same time period.”
Around $780 million of the county’s $6.2 billion FY 2020 budget was allocated for the offices of the sheriff ($619 million) and state’s attorney ($161.5 million), according to county data available online. That does not include other areas related to the courts and public safety, such as the money that goes to the circuit court clerk, which is responsible for keeping court records.
A spokesperson for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office told Injustice Watch, a nonprofit journalism outlet based in Chicago, that the sheriff “has invested in “programs and staff that address mental health, substance abuse disorders, poverty, opioid intervention, prostitution, homelessness, and violence as public health issues rather than just matters for law enforcement to address.”
The resolution, which passed the Cook County Board of Commissioners’ Criminal Justice Committee in June, could come up for a vote at the board’s next regular meeting on July 30.