County jail task force named

County jail task force named

URBANA — The nine members of a task force to study Champaign County Jail issues have been appointed, and Democratic county board member Carol Ammons will be named to a separate group that is conducting a comprehensive jail-needs assessment.

County board Chair C. Pius Weibel, a Champaign Democrat, said Monday that he planned to name Ammons to the panel that already includes the county's presiding judge, state's attorney, sheriff, jail superintendent, county administrator, county facilities director, the county board's facilities committee deputy chair and the assistant deputy chair.

Last month, Ammons pushed the county board to amend the jail project planning team to add a ninth member, a person of color from a minority-influence county board district, since all eight members on the panel are white.

Weibel said Ammons' appointment won't go to the county board for a while.

"It's too late to get it on (tonight's) agenda," he said Monday, "and I won't be at the next (committee of the whole meeting) and really they're not doing anything for a while anyway," Weibel said.

Among other things the jail project planning team is to look at the possible closure of the county jail in downtown Urbana and an expansion of the satellite correctional facility in east Urbana.

Meanwhile, county board member Michael Richards, another Champaign Democrat, has named the nine members of a county community justice task force. That group, which includes Richards as its chair, will gather information on current program and costs to prevent incarceration and to promote the rehabilitation of prisoners. It also will look at programs outside of Champaign County that might be used to support existing local programs. The task force, which was sought by a number of community members who appeared before the county board in recent months, is supposed to report to the county board later this year.

In addition to Richards its membership includes:

— William Sullivan of Urbana, a professor of landscape architectures at the University of Illinois who has taught at the Danville Correctional Center and is a member of the National Institute of Medicine's Roundtable on Environmental Health Science, Research and Medicine.

— Lynn Branham, a visiting professor of law at the UI from the St. Louis University School of Law, who is a member of the American Bar Association's Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, and who has written on sentencing and corrections.

— Mark Driscoll of Urbana, an employee of the Champaign County Mental Health Board who manages public safety funds that support juvenile justice post-detention programs.

— Scott Bennett of Urbana, a felony prosecutor at the McLean County state's attorney's office who is the office representative to that county's drug court. He also has been a criminal defense attorney in Champaign County.

— Julian Rappaport of Champaign, an emeritus professor of psychology at the UI and former president of the county board of health. In his application to the task force he said he has extensive experience in mental health and criminal justice.

— Sheila Ferguson, a licensed clinical social worker who is CEO of Community Elements (formerly the Mental Health Center of Champaign County) and a member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She helped implement a mental health court in Champaign County.

— Benita Rollins-Gay of Urbana, a member of the Urbana school board and the crisis line coordinator at Community Elements where she trains community members and police officers on providing support and crisis intervention to those experiencing mental health crisis or homicidal thoughts.

— James Kilgore of Champaign, a member of a local group, Citizens with Conviction, that advocates for the rights of the formerly incarcerated. He said he served 6 1/2 years in federal and state prisons, one year on parole with home confinement and two years on federal supervised release.

"I think we have a good mix of people to provide input, but the role of this committee is to open this discussion up to the community as much as possible," Richards said.

He said he believes the task force should have a special focus on those who work with the mentally ill "since facilities and services for the mentally ill is a major concern" at the county's two correctional facilities.

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