Building a More Just Future: Heartland Alliance at the Smart on Crime Conference. 

By Quintin Williams, Campaign Manager for Research and Policy, Heartland Alliance

Heartland Alliance’s Quintin Williams, Melissa Young and Eddie Bocanegra

Recently, Research and Policy and READI Chicago staff had the opportunity to attend The 3rd Annual Smart On Crime Innovations Conference, an annual conference that brings together researchers, advocates, activists, government officials, funders, people with lived experience in the criminal justice system, and others to focus on innovations in criminal justice policy.

While at the conference, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel about the need to dismantle the permanent punishments that face people with criminal records – otherwise known as “collateral consequences.” One of the biggest points that I wanted to reinforce was that people with lived experience must be actively involved in the fight for reform. Their voices have been crucial to the success we’ve achieved working as part of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI), a coalition led by people with criminal records, community organizers, lawyers, and policy specialists who advocate for real criminal justice reform. Previous reform efforts have often made people with records the objects of policy rather than the architects. However, at Heartland Alliance, we are committed to working in a way that puts the power of sketching solutions into the hands of those closest to the problem. This commitment has allowed us to make some great strides in the fight for justice reform and now, it has brought us to the precipice of a bold new plan to not just chip away at permanent punishments but remove a broad list of collateral consequences.

And while I had the opportunity to lift up the importance of truly incorporating impacted people, I had the privilege of learning a few things from the conference as well, including the importance of framing and language in the movement, the need to ground any efforts in a human rights approach, and also the need for bipartisan support for reform. This movement for change can only be successful if we focus on relationship building and bringing people along, so it is critical that we have those on both sides of the aisle supporting people with records, those who suffer under the weight of collateral consequences.

This conference created an environment to discuss ideas, explore critical tensions, and imagine a world where individuals are not defined by their experience with the criminal legal system. It was an informative, communal, and hopeful event that reflected the deep desire of people from around the country to create a future that is humane and just. Our leadership within the movement is a deep reflection of our focus to achieve equity and opportunity for all.

An Update on Public Charge

Many may have heard that the Trump Administration published its final rule regarding the public charge rule on inadmissibility, generally referred to as ‘public charge’. This proposed change will impact who can enter the country and get a green card, with low-income immigrants and those who use certain public benefits being penalized. The news around this rule has generated questions and concerns about our staff and participants at Heartland Alliance, our partners and from our communities, so we wanted to provide clear information:

First, no policy changes have gone into effect: The final rule was published, but it does not go into effect until October 15, 2019. That date is also subject to change due to likely legal battles.

Heartland Alliance services remain the same and we are not going anywhere: People should continue to participate in programs that support them. This rule is designed to sow fear in immigrant communities and we need to push back against that fear.

Most immigrants already inside the country are not subject to the rule: The following populations are exempt:

  • Citizens
  • Green Card holders
  • Refugees or asylees
  • U or T Visa holders
  • DACA recipients seeking renewal
  • Those with Temporary Protected Status
  • Those with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Individuals seeking to enter the country and those with legal status who plan to apply for a Green Card may be subject to the new rule – but only once it goes into effect

We hope that this information supports you and your work and we also have additional resources from our partners at the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition are listed below.

Heartland Alliance is committed to supporting and fighting for the immigrant community and our policy team and our National Immigrant Justice Center are working closely with advocates from across the nation to explore all our options in combatting this rule.

Look Inside: Kim Drew, Research & Policy

Kimberly Drew is Heartland Alliance’s Legislative Advocacy Director and has been a passionate and dedicated part of the team for 11 years. Her passion for her work derives from the love she has for empowering people to discover their own voice, strength and ability to make change for themselves and their communities. She is an ardent supporter in social justice, a lover of travel and will soon be a Chicago Marathon runner. Meet Kim Drew!

What got you into this work?

I graduated from college knowing that I wanted to move to Chicago and do community organizing work because I saw it as a way that I could affect change. I learned a ton. Chicago is a city that teaches you quickly about poverty, inequity and injustice but it is also full of movement builders and change-makers – I found a community of people fighting for a better world. I was drawn to organizing and policy work early on because I have always seen it as an important, effective lever of change.

Why is policy work so important to the communities that we serve?

There are so many ways that policy has perpetuated racial inequities, increased poverty and caused harm to the communities we serve. Policy has to be part of the solution. I think policy change is one tool we have to dismantle and undo the harm but also build a more just and equitable world.

When did you know you were in the place you needed to be?

One of my favorite memories from my early days at Heartland was going down to Springfield for a lobby day with a busload of youth experiencing homelessness. Many of them were program participants of Neon Street. We were heading to the Capitol to talk to legislators about a proposal to get rid of the teen sub-minimum wage. The minimum wage was $8.25 and employers by law could pay teens 50 cents less/per hour. The youth from Neon Street knew better than anyone how unjust that law is, they had experience being paid less for the same work, being on their own and trying to support themselves and sometimes kids or siblings too on unlivable wages. I prepped them to talk to legislators and helped them navigate the Capitol. At the end of the day, I will never forget the reflection of one young woman who joined us that day.: she thanked me and Heartland Alliance for making the day possible and said that she felt powerful and heard for the first time in her life. We didn’t pass the bill that year but a bus load of youth found the power of their voice that day.

What is Your Favorite Part about Your Job?

One of my favorite things about my job is getting to work alongside such an amazing, committed group of people that tirelessly works in the pursuit of justice, equity and opportunity for all each and every day.

How Can People Help Keep Food Support Available for Our Communities?/How Can Others Help in Your Work?

This year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food for low-income families and many of the people Heartland Alliance serves, has faced an onslaught of federal threats that could result in millions of people losing food assistance and going hungry. SNAP is our nation’s most effective and efficient anti-hunger program – it helps make sure that people who are struggling to make ends meet are able to put food on the table. Cutting the program is wrongheaded and inhumane. People can help by staying up to date with the latest efforts to cut poverty—including ongoing and future fights to protect critical programs like as SNAP! So sign up for our action alerts so you know when to act and explore Heartland Alliance’s latest poverty data to learn more about poverty and hunger throughout Illinois.

Update: The End of the Illinois 2019 Legislative Session

Legislation Focusing On Providing Access To Equity And Human Rights May Potentially Impact Millions In Illinois

Members of Heartland Alliance’s Policy & Advocacy Team

Heartland Alliance’s Policy and Advocacy team has just completed one of the most successful legislative sessions in recent years. We are proud to have led on and contributed to the passage of numerous bills that further Heartland Alliance’s vision and commitment to human rights and these pieces of legislation will go on to positively impact our participants and millions of others in Illinois.   

We know that legislative change is often incremental, but we continue to make critical steps toward broad goals, like closing the racial wealth divide, eliminating collateral consequences for people with criminal records and safeguarding the programs and services that help people experiencing poverty meet their basic needs. Your dedication has helped bring millions of people in Illinois closer to accessing health and healing, economic opportunity as well as safety and justice. Your calls, emails, tweets, and voices, put these bills across the finish line so we invite you celebrate these wins with us, because YOU helped make them happen. 

INCREASE WEALTH EQUITY

  • Children’s Savings Accounts (HB2237) creates a statewide Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program so startingin 2021, all children born or adopted in Illinois will receive a $50 seed deposit into a 529 college savings account. This is the culmination of a decade-long campaign led by Heartland Alliance, and if signed into law by the Governor, it will be the largest CSA program in the country. Check out the fact sheet and press release to learn more.
  • Debt Collection Reform (HB88) – Reforms Illinois debt collection laws to help families get out of debt more quickly, helping to close the racial wealth divide and give more families the opportunity to thrive. For more, read the fact sheet and press release.
  • Basic Income Pilot Benefits Protection (SB1735) makes it possible for Illinois residents to participate in an innovative basic income research study so that the financial assistance provided to individuals enrolled in these pilot programs is excluded when determining eligibility and benefit levels for public aid. This ensures that individuals can keep accessing crucial supports while researchers are able to rigorously measure the impact of basic income pilots and provide important evidence to policymakers. 

INCREASE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

  • Minimum Wage Increase (SB1): This bill puts Illinois on a path to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over the next 6 years. The first increase to $9.25/hour will happen on January 1 of next year, the second increase will occur July 1, 2020 to $10/hour and the minimum wage will continue to increase by $1 on July 1 each year until it reaches $15.

SNAP and TANF Program Innovations and Improvements .

  • The SNAP Restaurant Meals Program Bill  (HB3343) allows SNAP recipients who are elderly, disabled or experiencing homelessness to use their LINK cards to purchase prepared meals at participating restaurants. We led this in partnership with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
  • The College Student Hunger bill (SB1641) requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to provide information about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to all students accepted for enrollment and identified as eligible for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant. The bill helps address the growing problem of hunger among college students and lack of information and misinformation many students receive about their eligibility for food assistance.
  • Heartland Alliance, in strong partnership with the Chicago Jobs Council, also lead the efforts to pass the SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) Program Bill (SB1791). The bill will help build a stronger more effective SNAP E&T program by encourage new investment, capturing additional federal dollars and preventing people with significant barriers to employment from losing their food assistance. The bill functionally make SNAP E&T voluntary for the entire state.
  • Strengthening TANF (HB3129) eliminates full family sanctions so that families experiencing extreme poverty are not completely destitute when they are not able to fully meet program requirements. Heartland Alliance also worked with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to make significant improvements to the TANF program to ensure that sanctions applied for the cash assistance program for our state’s neediest families are fair and rare. The bill also creates a good cause exemption for families who are experiencing homelessness, eviction or utility disruption. Good Cause exemptions are given to families when the adult can demonstrate that there are mitigating reasons for not meeting participant requirements. And it also ensures that the TANF grant amount remains at 30% of the Federal Poverty Level.

INCREASE SAFETY

  • VTTC Program Extension (HB2118) This bill continues a program that Heartland Alliance was responsible for creating in 2016 for another 3 years. The Victims of Trafficking, Torture, or Other Crimes (VTTC) program provides medical, food, and cash assistance to foreign-born survivors of human trafficking, torture and other serious crimes while they are preparing to file and waiting for a decision on their visa or asylum applications.

INCREASE ACCESS TO JUSTICE

  • Housing as a Human Right (SB1780) creates a civil rights violation under the Illinois Human Rights Act to refuse to sell, rent, or otherwise make housing unavailable to any buyer or renter based on an arrest not leading to a finding of guilt, a juvenile record; or a criminal history record ordered expunged, sealed, or impounded. SB1780 is an initiative of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI). RROCI is a coalition of directly impacted community leaders, organizers, and policy advocates from Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance.

INCREASE HEALTH EQUITY

  • Overdose Prevention and Harm Reduction Act (SB1828): Heartland Alliance worked with a number of community partners to advance this legislation to improve overdose prevention efforts and create a new statewide needle exchange program. These interventions are critical in preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis, connecting people to treatment, and saving lives. Illinois now joins 21 other states who have a statewide needle exchange program. This bill also represents an important step for Heartland Alliance in becoming a recognized leader on effective approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic, both from a policy and programming perspective. Check out these stories from WTTW and the Tribune for more info.
  • Medicaid Omnibus/Eligibility Reforms (SB1321): Heartland Alliance and our partners at the Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) coalition proposed significant reforms this year to the Medicaid eligibility, enrollment, and renewal system. This system has been in crisis, with Illinois unable to process Medicaid applications in a timely fashion and hundreds of thousands of enrollees losing their health coverage each month when up for renewal. After dozens of hours of meetings and negotiations with the new Administration and the General Assembly, we were able to secure many of our reforms through their incorporation into this larger Medicaid legislative package. Please view the POCIL public statement for more info.

In addition to this bills we led, we also lent our voice and efforts to other crucial pieces of legislation that were passed. These bills will improve our state in ways that could benefit us and the people we serve.

Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (HB1438) represents one of the most significant criminal justice and economic development measures in recent memory and is the first successful legislative effort, of any state, to tax and regulate cannabis. While the bill represents a comprehensive approach to developing a legal market for adult recreational use of cannabis, a number of specific provisions stand out as important to Heartland Alliance’s efforts to advance racial equity:

  • Expungement of previous cannabis offenses: An estimated 800,000 Illinoisans have a criminal record due to a cannabis related arrest or conviction andeople of color have been disproportionately impacted, limiting opportunities in employment, education, and housing. This bill leverages the Governor’s pardon power and sets up a system to automatically expunge most misdemeanors and class four felonies, pending any objections from states attorneys.
  • Social equity in economic opportunities related to cannabis: The bill includes numerous provisions to promote equity in ownership and employment within the cannabis industry. Applicants seeking a license to open a business will receive preference if persons impacted by cannabis prohibition or persons residing in areas disproportionately impacted by prohibition are included in the application. The bill also does not impose any arbitrary limitations on persons with criminal records being employed in the industry.
  • Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program: This bill dedicates 25% of the revenue generated to the R3 program that will issue grants for economic development, violence prevention, and other community investment in areas disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition. This act is expected to generate $500 million or more each year once fully implemented, so $125 million or more could be available for the R3 program
  • Investment in mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment: This bill allocates 20% of the revenue generated to mental health and SUD treatment. In part, this is to address any concerns about increased cannabis use and resulting mental health challenges, but will also be available to improve and better this system generally.

Overall, this bill will start to address some of the wrongs that have occurred due to the over-policing of communities of color and puts forward a strong effort to make sure those communities benefit from this effort. This bill will help Heartland Alliance and those we serve and will advance equity in our state.

SJRCA1Fair Tax & SB687Income Tax Rates Bill: SJRCA1 was adopted by both houses which means that voters will get the chance to decide whether we keep our current tax system or choose an incometax where people with higher incomes pay higher tax rates and people with lower incomes pay lower tax rates. If passed,97 percent of Illinois filers will pay the same or less in taxes and would raise more than $3 billion a year for human services, schools, and other important priorities.

Thank You for a Year of Big Change!

2018 was a big year. It was a year of unprecedented threats, unbelievable movement building and unwavering support from you, our community of dedicated advocates, friends, partners, and funders. Every report that was written, harmful legislation that was blocked and policy solution that was supported helped us get one step closer to creating a more equitable society for all. We had the opportunity to move the needle on the issues we care about most at Heartland Alliance—Housing, Health Care, Jobs, Justice, Economic Opportunity, and Safety. And we could not have done it without you.

Here is just some of the big impact you helped create with us in 2018:

Housing

Opened Doors to Employment for 26,000 People Experiencing Homelessness: We supported 5 communities in creating innovative changes to public service systems, making the paths to support more accessible and effective.

Health

Health Care Preserved for One Million Illinoisans: Heartland Alliance and our partners in Protect Our Care Illinois helped lead the state efforts to save the ACA, deny junk health insurance, protect Medicaid, and fund community health centers. 

Jobs

Through multipronged field building efforts, we ensured that stakeholders were equipped with strategies and best practices for addressing the employment interests of people facing barriers to employment. All told we reached over 150,000 people nationwide through our resources, tools, webinars, trainings, and on-site supports.

Economic Opportunity

Increased income for nearly 70,000 Illinoisans and worked to protect consumers: In partnership with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, we led the effort to increase the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash grant, the first increase in 10 years. We also launched a campaign to cap interest rates on title loans at 36 percent, started coalition-wide meetingspassed a bill ensuring that ABLE accounts are protected from debt collection, and celebrated the launch of Secure Choice, a new retirement savings program for Illinois workers.

Justice

Increased Opportunity for Over 4 Million People with a Criminal Record: In partnership with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois, we passed legislation to prohibit courts from holding unpaid fines and fees against people looking to seal their criminal records. We also made strides in the movement to “ban the box” on college applications.

Data-Informed Decision Making for the Social Good

Heartland Alliance provided education, research, data and analysis support to many organizations, including the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Secure Choice Board, McCormick Foundation, Avodah, Latino Policy Forum, DuPage County Continuum of Care, Chicago Bar Foundation, City Colleges of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, Lake County Alliance for Human Services, Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, the Oak Park Community Foundation grantees, the Chicago Resilient Families Initiative Task Force, Early Learning Council, and others. We released the results of five-year evaluation of a major Cook County initiative to implement a workforce management information system. In addition to our work with community partners, we made major strides towards improving our outcomes measurement and data infrastructure for Heartland Alliance programs.

Education

Increased Food Security for 40,000 Low-Income Community College Students: With the support of dedicated partners, we expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for economically disadvantaged community college students.

Safety

Over 1500 Human Trafficking Survivors Rights Protected: Passed three  bills to improve the rights of survivors of human trafficking by allowing them to seal any criminal record resulting from their own exploitation, provide access to pay for health care and housing, and makes it easier to help them sue their traffickers.

We are proud of the changes and impact we made this year, but we are not done yet.

While this year was big, 2019 will bold. We are not just ready to hold the line on the strides we have made but we are ready, and planning, to launch big, bold ideas that will lift up innovative solutions to poverty. These are solutions that will strike at the heart of inequity and put bold ideas, once thought unimaginable, center stage. Thank you to our dedicated funders, partners, and allies—without you, we would not have been able to accomplish this work!

We can’t wait to ring in 2019 with you and for you to join us on our journey towards creating an equitable society for us all. Because when we all can achieve safety, opportunity, and equity, everyone benefits.

Best Wishes, Sam!

Heartland Alliances’ fearless Director of Policy, Sam Tuttle, will be leaving her role in December 2018. She has been a driving force behind our policy work, with a fierce commitment to equity and an undeniable presence in our organization. 

We invite you to read what Heartland Alliance, along with her friends, peers, colleagues and legislative partners had to say about Sam, her accomplishments, and her impact on their lives throughout the years. 

“When you’re in the Capitol building and you’re fighting for the people our political system usually doesn’t even see, when you’re outnumbered and outspent, Sam is the person you need in your corner. Brilliant, fierce, strategic, and indefatigable. Sam, you’ve made a lot of people’s lives better. Thank you.”
– Senator Daniel Biss

“I have known Sam Tuttle Since I entered office 12 years ago and in that time I have been indelibly impressed with her ethic, skill, and tenacity. Her genuine care for people and tireless effort in empowering them truly makes her an incredible individual. With all my best wishes, I want to extend the utmost thanks and appreciation to Sam for her constant professionalism, bubbly personality, and attention to every last detail. Sam’s absence from Heartland Alliance will be felt, however we know she will continue to achieve nothing less than greatness.” – State Representative Elizabeth Hernandez

“Sam Tuttle has been the advocate version of Daniel Biss, which is saying something: fervently committed to social justice in all forms, smarter than hell, expert in the legislative process, and tireless. Thank you and every best wish, Sam!” – Senator Pat McGuire

Sam has been the most important mentor I have had in my career. She has taught me nuance and strategies that I never would have conceived of and instilled a belief in our ability to advance social change that I will carry with me always. Her combination of brilliance, ferocity, and kindness will not be easily replaced.”  – Dan Rabbitt, Health Policy Project Manager, Heartland Alliance

“Sam has been an invaluable resource to HHCS as we navigated challenging State budgetary and policy issues and she has been super smart with strategy, relationship building and positioning Heartland in the best light. I appreciate Sam’s candor, here ability to quickly surface our values and human rights orientation in any policy discussion and her passion for this work and commitment to social justice. I think one of Sam’s many gifts is that everyone feels smarter after interacting with her. HHCS and our participants will be forever impacted by her great work and I appreciate her leadership in our sector. It is unparalleled.” – David Sinski Executive Director of Heartland Human Care Services

“Among the many things that I have learned from Sam Tuttle, one of the most important is to consider the unintended consequences of policy change—we must commit ourselves to the diligence of comprehensive analysis before jumping on any bandwagon.” – Ed Stellon, Executive Director of Heartland Alliance Health 

“I have learned so much from Sam regarding policy and the values that come along with creating it. She has been so gracious and kind to me as she has been an unofficial mentor to me in the arena of policy. I would not be who I am as a budding policy person without her wisdom, kindness, and willingness to coach me. I love her and I will miss her very much in this capacity”  – Quintin Williams, Field Building Manager, Heartland Alliance

“I am so excited for Sam and all that is in store for her in the future. I have worked with Sam over these last few years on a controversial bill that was equally important to both of us to pass. In the years that I spent in Springfield, I have never met anyone as dedicated and as passionate about her work. It is if she had a personal investment in every individual whose lives would be improved because of the efforts involved in legislation. This total commitment to enhance the lives for ALL is what makes her one of the finest human beings. This is also what makes her so successful. I am proud to call her my friend.” 
State Representative Barb Wheeler

“In three short years under her supervision, Sam taught me more than most people who do this work learn their whole career. I will forever be grateful to her for that! She is truly one of a kind in the most positive ways and will be sorely missed!” – Nadeen Israel

We are so thankful for Sam’s leadership and partnership and wish her the best of luck in her next adventure!

 

Heartland Alliance Supports the National Prison Strike and Efforts to Recognize the Basic Human Rights of ALL Prisoners

August 23, 2018 — At Heartland Alliance, we believe that every person has the right to safety, opportunity and justice. That is why we support the National Prison Strike being held from August 21st through September 9th, which will be led by incarcerated individuals throughout the nation. Prison reform is essential to combating the poverty, racism, inequity, and disenfranchisement that millions, including many of our participants, face every day.

There are currently more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States and many of these individuals face inhuman treatment, physical violence, sentencing discrimination, disenfranchisement and exploitative labor practices. These practices do not empower our communities; they only further the trauma, violence, and poverty that many people with justice-system involvement have experienced. If we truly want change, we must create a system that values humanity, rehabilitation, and restorative justice. We support those within and outside of the criminal justice system who are working to end the human rights violations that have permeated our criminal justice system.

Among the demands of the strikers include;

  • Rescind the Prison Litigation Reform Act, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and rights violations
  • No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a “violent offender”
  • Immediate  improvements  to  the  conditions  of  prisons  and  prison  policies  that  recognize  the  humanity  of  imprisoned  men  and  women
  • An immediate end to  prison  slavery – all  persons  imprisoned  in  any  place  of  detention  under  United  States  jurisdiction  must  be  paid  the  prevailing  wage  in  their  state  or  territory  for  their labor

These demands aim to recognize the basic human rights of all prisoners and address the pervasive racial bias and violence inherent in our prison system. You can read the full list of demands here.

Heartland Alliance strives to bring about a more just society; without a system of justice that is rooted in human rights and equity, our society will never truly be just.

Click here to learn more about the National Prison Strike and see how you can help.