Letter: For safe communities, reform legal system
Earlier this month, Richard Irvin held a press conference focused on the fact Chicago had just experienced the most violent Memorial Day weekend in the last five years. What he didn't say was that since the start of the pandemic, homicides have increased everywhere, in both communities that increased police spending and those that implemented criminal justice reforms. The pandemic caused economic destabilization in communities across the country, a key factor driving gun violence.
Studies show that community development, social work and restorative justice lead to a decrease in crime. We all want safe communities, but in order to build them, we must address the root causes of crime. That also means reforming our legal system. For example, pretrial jailing can make people more likely to be arrested in the future, even when they are found innocent. That's why our state is ending money bail next year.
The Pretrial Fairness Act ensures that the size of someone's bank account is no longer the main factor determining who is jailed pretrial. It also includes common-sense safety measures, including a plan to deal with domestic violence cases to assess whether or not release is a viable option.
As a Christian minister, my conscience dictates that I have to listen to the words of Jesus. There are 4,000 Bible verses and passages that speak about God's special concern for the poor and oppressed. Included in those passages are stark warnings for authorities who continue to oppress and neglect the poor. Punishing people for being stuck in cycles of poverty and making it more difficult for them to have a fair trial goes against the heart of God.
Let's do the right thing and reform our legal system while focusing on ending the inequality at the root of violence in our communities.