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Punishment Is Not a "Service"

October 24, 2017

In the past two years, community organizers and advocates have made dramatic headway in the fight to end money bond and pretrial incarceration in Cook County. The most significant and recent victory is the introduction of General Order 18.8A by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, effective September 18, 2017.Following litigation and public pressure to reduce the number of people locked up in Cook County Jail only because they cannot pay a monetary bond, the order is supposed to ensure that judges do not set money bond except in amounts that people can pay. If followed, the order represents a dramatic shift away from unpaid money bond as the primary driver of pretrial incarceration and toward a new respect for the presumption of innocence in Cook County. Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) and our partners in The Coalition to End Money Bond are currently working to ensure that the order is fully implemented and that no one is incarcerated in Cook County Jail solely because they cannot pay a money bond.As more people are diverted from the jail, CCBF is increasing our focus on what is happening to those individuals who previously would have been incarcerated. Through our work posting bond for people who cannot afford it themselves and observing Central Bond Court, CCBF has consistently observed conditions of pretrial release that operate as a form of pretrial punishment. Since 2015, CCBF has posted bond to free 98 people. Of these people, more than one in four were subjected to punitive pretrial conditions, including electronic monitoring, overnight or 24-hour curfews, monthly check-ins with a Pretrial Services officer, and drug testing—all after we posted their significant monetary bonds. These conditions are ordered by the court, most often by judges in bond court, and overseen by either the Pretrial Services Division or the Sheriff's Office.Under the guise of helping accused people come back to court and avoid re-arrest, pretrial conditions restrict the liberty of innocent people and even mimic the same harms as pretrial incarceration, causing loss of jobs, housing, access to medical care and putting severe strain on social support networks and family members. Pretrial conditions such as curfews actually place more severe restrictions on freedom than sentences received after conviction, such as probation, supervision, and conditional discharge. Furthermore, punitive pretrial conditions coerce people to plead guilty, undermining accused people's rights and recreating the negative impacts of incarceration in jail. These pretrial conditions violate the presumption of innocence that seeks to prevent punishment before conviction.The current punitive approach of the Pretrial Services Division plays a key role in driving this troubling trend. Over the last six months, CCBF has repeatedly seen Pretrial Services impose punitive conditions on individuals for whom CCBF has posted bond. Through their observations of Central Bond Court from August to October 2017, volunteer courtwatchers with the Coalition to End Money Bond also documented regular imposition of onerous pretrial conditions such as curfews, as well as electronic monitoring operated by the Sheriff's Office. The full extent and impact of these punishments are not transparent: Advocates and the public are unable to access the most basic information about Pretrial Service's systemic impact because it is housed under the Office of the Chief Judge and thus not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Building Brighter Futures: Children's Savings Accounts in Illinois

August 22, 2017

In 2009, the Illinois General Assembly created a bipartisan task force to explore a CSA program in the state. The task force recommended that a savings account should be opened automatically at birth for every child born in Illinois, using the Bright Start Direct College Savings Program as the savings vehicle.This report examines what it will take to make these recommendations a reality. To better understand the Bright Start program and how to make it an effective savings tool for all families, we look at how Illinoisans are currently using Bright Start, and explore the challenges low-income families and families of color face in using Bright Start to save for college. We also examine how a CSA program could impact the racial wealth gap in Illinois. Finally, we make policy recommendations for the design and implementation of a CSA program to help Illinois families save for higher education.

No Right Turn: Illinois' Auto Title Loan Industry and its Impact on Consumers

October 28, 2015

This study examines the auto title lending industry in Illinois. Auto title loans are a type of high-cost, small-dollar loan. They are similar to payday loans, but are secured by the title to the borrower's automobile. Title lenders operate in 25 states across the country, and each year an estimated two million American consumers take out title loans. This report examines data from two reports on the consumer lending industry released by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR) and loan-level data from court records of collection cases filed in Cook County.

Starting out Behind: Trends in Student Loan Burdens at For-Profit Colleges

May 11, 2015

This study analyzes the impact of postsecondary institution type and student characteristics on students' decision whether to borrow and how much to borrow to finance their education. Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study from the 2011-2012 academic year, the study uses a two-stage regression model in order to estimate the impacts of student and institutional characteristics on the probability that a student would borrow and, for students who borrowed, their student debt burdens. The model controls for a number of financial resources available to students, institution characteristics, and student and family characteristics that could contribute to variations in debt between for-profit, nonprofit, and public colleges, including the total cost of attendance, amount of parental support, expected family contribution, and amount of grants received.

Unresolved Foreclosures: Patterns of Zombie Properties in Cook County

January 24, 2014

This report examines the extent to which servicers are walking away from foreclosures in Cook County, Illinois, creating zombie properties, and how that practice may vary by the characteristics of the neighborhood in which the property is located.

Struggling to Stay Afloat: Negative Equity in Communities of Color in the Chicago Six County Region

March 22, 2012

The following analysis examines patterns of negative equity in communities of different racial and ethnic compositions in the Chicago six county region. It combines 2011 data on negative equity in Chicago region ZIP codes with U.S. Census data on the racial/ethnic composition of ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA).

News That Matters: An Assessment of Chicago's Information Landscape

July 13, 2011

The Community News Matters project of The Chicago Community Trust conducted surveys and focus groups of the general public, local leaders and low-income residents to assess the level to which critical information needs of democracies are being well-met in the Chicago region and to identify critical information gaps and deficiencies in Chicago's information landscape that may need to be addressed.

Left Behind: Troubled Foreclosed Properties and Servicer Accountability in Chicago

January 12, 2011

The following report illustrates the relationship between foreclosures and vacant properties in the City of Chicago. It combines data from the City of Chicago on vacant and potentially vacant buildings with data on foreclosure filings, completed foreclosure auctions, and property transfers to better understand the number of vacant properties that have at some point been part of the foreclosure process.

Disparities in Assets and Ownership: Limitations to the American Dream in Communities of Color

December 1, 2010

The disparities in assets and ownership seen between communities of color and whites perpetuate a troubling problem in Illinois. Thousands of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, American Indians and other communities of color are denied access to opportunities for wealth building and future prosperity.Wealth-building activities are crucial to securing personal well-being and increasing economic mobility. Wealth is calculated as the total value of what one owns minus any remaining outstanding debt.Assets, a means to build wealth, provide an array of benefits including social influence, political participation, household stability and an orientation toward the future.Gaining wealth through asset ownership -- home ownership, retirement savings accounts, entrepreneurship, advanced college education -- provides the footing for individuals to move up the socioeconomic ladder.

Bringing Chicago Public Schools into the 21st Century

August 20, 2010

Imagine if every teacher could utilize technology fluidly in their lesson plans. Imagine if students could take classes at other schools via video teleconferencing. Imagine if students used their cell phones to text in response to last night's reading. Imagine if a Spanish class in Chicago had daily speaking sessions in English and Spanish with a classroom in Mexico City. We believe if our recommendations are adopted those dreams could be a reality. Our ultimate goal is to improve high schools by creating and enforcing strong, innovative recommendations for Chicago Public Schools. After more than 120 hours of intense research, we found out how schools nationwide implement technology engaging their students in learning both inside and outside of the classroom. We also found examples of new devices and programs that could expand and improve the techniques teachers use in the classroom. The recommendations that we viewed as most essential were broken into six areas that we call "buckets". The six buckets are: Teaching, Learning, Technology Policy, Resources, Communication and School Culture. The Education Council has chosen 6 recommendations we considering most important. We believe these 6 recommendations are the most crucial and organic to our movement of bringing CPS into the 21st century.CPS should offer mandatory semester workshops for teachers on successfully utilizing technology in the classroom.If a course is not offered at a student's school, he or she should be allowed to take the course at a different school through video conferencing, while still being in his/her school.Teachers should have a personal password for the use of unblocking CPS "restricted" websites for educational purposes. The principal's discretion will determine which websites can be viewed.Cell phones should be allowed during passing periods, lunch and as a teacher-defined learning tool (e.g. as for research, surveying students and background knowledge).CPS should be equipping schools with iPod touches, Mac Books, Flip Cams, and Smart boards to enhance the classroom experience by building sponsorships with companies who can provide them.There should be a video that CPS shows city-wide, as well as student-led programs for students in schools about the dangers of sexting and cyber-bullying and their consequences.We look forward to this report generating conversations throughout the city and the nation. Integrating technology into education is not an easy task, but it is necessary for education in the 21st century. We believe that these recommendations can help make it possible.

Life After Prison: Tracking the Experiences of Male Prisoners Returning to Chicago, Cleveland, and Houston

May 15, 2010

Examines the reentry experiences of 652 men in the three cities, including housing stability, family relationships, substance use, employment, and recidivism. Analyzes outcome predictors such as prison programs, job training, and family structure.

Diverted Opportunity: Refund Anticipation Loans Drain Wealth from Low Wealth Tax Filers and Communities of Color

April 19, 2010

Community stakeholders and consumer advocates have long argued that high-cost refund anticipation loans (RALs) weaken the capacity of anti-poverty programs to build wealth and alleviate poverty. There is also concern that the wealth-depleting impact of RALs may be greater in communities of color. Refund anticipation loans (RAL) are loans that allow taxpayers to access the proceeds of a tax refund within hours or days of filing their tax return. Although convenient, these tax loans carry significant costs for borrowers, reducing the expected return by up to 10 percent. In 2006, taxpayers spent approximately $900 million on refund anticipation loans.  Nationwide, the highest percentage of RAL consumers are taxpayers that qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the government's largest anti-poverty program. The EITC is designed to increase the income of working families and has been credited with lifting millions of people out of poverty. Using tax return data for tax year 2006 from the Brookings Institution, this report examines recent trends in the use of refund anticipation loans in Illinois among EITC recipients and by taxpayers living in communities of color. Additionally, this report provides estimates for the net aggregate financial loss experienced as a result of RAL fees for these borrowers and in these communities.