The Cops At The Capitol

At least 26 sworn members of U.S. law enforcement agencies from at least 11 states have been identified by law enforcement agencies and local reporting as attendees of the Jan. 6 rally in support of President Trump that sparked a riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Beyond that tally, several former law enforcement agents attended the rally, and still more current law enforcement officials are under investigation for making statements in support of the rally.

American policing is rooted in white supremacy: many contemporary police departments originated as patrols dedicated to terrorizing and capturing enslaved people.


Criminal Justice Reform Bill Headed To Governor’s Office After Passing Illinois House, Senate

The Illinois House has passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package.

It passed in the House with a 60-50 vote. The bill already passed the Illinois Senate in the early morning hours Wednesday. It will now be sent to Governor JB Pritzker for approval and signing.

It is part of a larger plan authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to rid Illinois of, what it calls, systemic racism.


PARTNERS IN CRIME: The Siege On The Capitol, Police, And White Supremacy

That a throng of right-wing thugs, neo-Nazis, and insurrectionists were able to barge into the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday is, to make a severe understatement, troubling.

Once again, American cops have expressed support for a right-wing insurrection and, in at least three cases, have taken part in the riot themselves. The obvious contrast between Wednesday’s display and the treatment that Black Lives Matter protesters often face is so easy that it risks obfuscating the long historical connection between law enforcement and white supremacy.


Illinois Expunges Nearly 500,000 Cannabis Arrest Records

Governor J.B. Pritzker closed out 2020 by expunging nearly 500,000 non-felony cannabis-related records, an action mandated by Illinois’ marijuana legalization law that went into effect a year ago.

As part of the action, the governor also pardoned 9,219 low-level cannabis conviction records, part of the state’s efforts to repair the damage inflicted by the war on drugs ― primarily on residents of color.

“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage in communities of color, who have disproportionately shouldered this burden,” Pritzker said. “But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”

Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized cannabis in the state, required the government to expunge 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records created between 2013 and 2019 by Jan. 1, 2021.

In a unique twist, the law also created a program that reinvests 25% of cannabis tax revenue into a fund for youth development, anti-violence programs, re-entry programs, economic development and civil legal aid services.


The Transition 2021

In 2020, the health of America’s public institutions became a central issue. Despite the pandemic, false charges of voter fraud, and voter suppression, we had the highest voter turnout since 1900. The problems of mass incarceration and a broken criminal justice system produced a demand for racial justice and fundamental change.

Even as he leaves office, Donald Trump’s actions and rhetoric reveal the potential for abuse of presidential power.

Now, we have arrived at a moment when transformational change is necessary, overdue — and possible. The Biden administration and Congress have a historic opportunity to implement solutions and once again make America live up to its highest democratic ideals of freedom and justice.

Even in a time of divided government, significant progress is possible.


Congress Clinches Deal To Restore Pell Grants For Prisoners 26 Years After Ban

Congressional leaders have struck a deal to reinstate Pell grants for incarcerated students more than a quarter century after banning the aid for prison education programs, top Democrats and Republicans announced on Sunday.

The legislation, which is expected to be included as part of the year-end spending deal, would lift the prohibition Congress imposed in the 1994 crime bill that then-President Bill Clinton signed and Joe Biden championed as a senator.

It is part of a sweeping package of higher education policies that the leaders of the House and Senate education committees negotiated over the last several weeks.


‘The Best News I’ve Heard in All My Life’: Termaine Hicks Is Exonerated After 19 Years of Wrongful Incarceration

On Wednesday, Termaine Hicks received the “the best I’ve heard in all my life.” After 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Mr. Hicks was going home.

“The other guys on the cell block were shouting. They were happy for me, banging on doors,” he said. 

Mr. Hicks was exonerated after the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit, led by Patricia Cummings, joined the Innocence Project’s motion to vacate his conviction.

Mr. Hicks, an Innocence Project client, was wrongly convicted of a rape that took place in Philadelphia in 2001. Then a 26-year-old father of one, Mr. Hicks had been walking home when he heard a woman screaming. She was badly beaten, so he reached for his cell phone to call 911. At that moment, police, responding to the calls of several neighbors, arrived on the scene.

They shot him three times in the back. Only after did they realize their mistake — Mr. Hicks was not the right person. The man they had just shot did not match the description of the attacker provided by a witness, who saw the assailant dragging the victim into an alley. And he was unarmed.


‘You Have the Wrong Place:’ Body Camera Video Shows Moments Police Handcuff Innocent, Naked Woman During Wrong Raid

For the first time, police body camera video reveals what an innocent woman said happened to her nearly two years ago: police officers wrongly entered her home with guns drawn and handcuffed her naked as she watched in horror.

Last year, Anjanette Young filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video to show the public what happened to her that day. But the Chicago Police Department denied the requests.

Young recently obtained the footage after a court forced CPD to turn it over as part of her lawsuit against police.

“I feel like they didn’t want us to have this video because they knew how bad it was,” Young said. “They knew they had done something wrong. They knew that the way they treated me was not right.”


At A Time Of Pandemic, My Clients Keep Dying

I opened my email at 8:30 in the morning and my heart sank.

A “dear subscriber” notification, simple and plain, told me that my client Richard was no longer in Graham Correctional Center because he was deceased. There was no further information, no condolences offered, no way to follow up.

Had I not signed up for these notifications — status updates that are useful when clients are transferred from institution to institution — no one would have told me that he died.

Richard, an affable and religious man who was bombarded by love from family and friends, was 71 when he died. When I met him earlier this year, he had served 37 years of a natural life sentence for robbing a grocery store in Champaign, Illinois, one of hundreds of mostly Black men condemned to die in prison on his third strike.

He never hurt anyone, in that case or in any other.