Many Critical of Consultant’s Criminal Justice Report
By Jeff Bossert
A consultant hired to assess the future of Champaign County’s Correctional facilities got an earful Thursday night. What was planned as a two-hour public hearing was extended to three as Alan Kalmanoff took comments on his 212 page criminal justice draft report.
Many rejected the idea of advisory board that would include elected officials like the state’s attorney and sheriff, but not members of the public. University of Illinois Law Professor Lynn Branham suggested such a panel include police officers and a defense attorney, saying the draft shows a very narrow view of who are the stakeholders.
James Kilgore with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice also noted a list of 14 recommendations for facilities in the draft report, included nothing for crime prevention.
"Nowhere is there a recommendation for an allocation of funds for facilities in the community around community-based mental health, such as a 24-hour mental health crisis center, such as detox centers, such as transitional housing for people re-entering from prison and jail," he said.
Marlon Mitchell of the prison ministry at Champaign’s Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church said Kalmanoff was wrong in saying the criminal justice system only had the ‘appearance’ of racial disparity.
"Because I'm here to tell you that's not the apperance, that's exactly what's happening," he said, citing his own experiences as an African-American receiving traffic tickets and being stopped for jaywalking.
Former Champaign County Board member Steve Moser called the draft an attempt to close the county’s downtown jail before the satellite jail could handle more inmates - taking the county back to a time when some were housed elsewhere.
“If you go back and close one of those without implementing all these recommendations that I’ve heard, you’re going to be right back to hauling them somewhere else and bringing them back and throwing the criminal justice system right into a tailspin," he said.
Kalmanoff said there were ‘major’ things he heard that will be on his mind as prepares a final report.
He said with so many strong opinions, he clearly has to deal with the advisory board issue – and others - as the California-based consultant from the Institute for Law and Policy Planning prepares a final report at the end of May.
"(It was) a very helpful evening," he said. "You can feel the energy yourself. A lot of people have a lot to say, and a lot interested board members listening, and paying attention, and having thoughts.”
The hearing was not a meeting of the Champaign County Board, but 15 members were present Thursday night after Kalmanoff addressed the board about his draft Tuesday night.
Board chair Alan Kurtz said the board and public will get plenty of review time of that final report before the county's Community Justice Task Force can respond.
Kalmanoff's contract expires at the end of the month. Kurtz said the consultant and the board might hold a Skype discussion to touch base by mid-May.
"I think that would be helpful, but we're coming to a close," said Kurtz.