Category Archives: Justice

A Road Map for Repairing the Harm: The History of Racially Restrictive Covenants

Can you imagine, as a resident of Champaign County, being told you aren’t allowed to live in a neighborhood because you’re Black? By today’s standards, such blatant racism would be met with disgust and rejection—at least by the majority of … Continue reading

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What is the Radical Black Church?

How Do We Define the “Black” Church? In some sense, the Black Church can be readily defined by its music, style of preaching and sounds. Yet these are only surface definitions—it is so much more. The Black Church was born … Continue reading

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As Police Budget Swells, Safety Forum Articulates a Different Vision

Crime is going down in Urbana, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at Urbana’s police budget. After a $2.25 million increase in the police budget in the last two years—largely for salary increases and bonuses—Urbana leadership is pushing to … Continue reading

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The $1,686,170 Slap: The Shamar Betts Case Continues

It is hard to understand the magnitude of the restitution fine imposed on Urbana resident Shamar Betts as anything other than the persecution of one young black man. Despite a recent stay on collection of the debt pending a response … Continue reading

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A “Pattern of Problematic Conduct”: Urbana Officer Tests Police Accountability (Shortened Print Version)

This article originally appeared at WILL/Illinois Public Media on July 5, 2023. Reprinted with permission. It has been edited for space and style. See the full version here. “I had a big goose egg on my forehead,” Tianna Morrow recalled, … Continue reading

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A “Pattern of Problematic Conduct”: Urbana Officer Tests Police Accountability (Full Version)

This story is part of a partnership, focusing on police misconduct in Champaign County, between the Champaign-Urbana Civic Police Data Project of the Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit public accountability journalism organization, and Illinois Public Media. This investigation was supported … Continue reading

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Code Blue: Suffering through DWB in Rantoul

This essay, submitted to the Rantoul Press in 2009, was never published. The author shares it now to give context to community concerns with policing in Rantoul in the wake of recent police shootings of young Black men. “You were … Continue reading

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Diesel Therapy

The odyssey of Urbana resident Shamar Betts continues. Betts was arrested for authoring a Facebook post at age 19 in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison and charged … Continue reading

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The Assault on the Pretrial Fairness Act

Last month, News-Gazette columnist Jim Dey headlined “hysteria” over the provisions of the 2021 Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), which will go into effect in January, including the end to cash bail. Predictably, but illogically, Dey located the hysteria on the side … Continue reading

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Donald Trump v. Shamar Betts

I, Shamar Betts, incited a riot through a Facebook post encouraging my people to join alongside the rest of the world in an attempt to express our feelings on the tragic death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Although … Continue reading

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Posted in African American, African Americans, BLM, Court System, incarceration, January 6 insurrection, Justice, Prisoners, Racism, Trump, Voices of Color, Youth | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Donald Trump v. Shamar Betts

Shamar Betts Case Moves to Federal Appeals Court

On April 8, the case of Urbana resident Shamar Betts moved to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Betts was arrested in June, 2020 in the midst of a national crackdown on protests against the murder … Continue reading

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“It’s a Money Grab”: Billions in COVID Relief Going to Fund Police and Prisons

If you’re from inner-city Birmingham, Alabama, there’s a “99-percent chance” you have a family member or friend who has been incarcerated, according to Veronica Johnson, deputy director for the Alabama Justice Initiative, which has been fighting against a proposal to … Continue reading

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Fines, Fees, and Escalating Bail Bonds: Champaign County Urgently Needs to Implement the Pretrial Fairness Act

The Champaign County Bailout Coalition (CCBC) is a grassroots organization that uses community donations to pay low bail amounts for incarcerated individuals who don’t have access to financial resources in their moment of crisis. Founded in 2018, CCBC now pays … Continue reading

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Local Community Protests Former Champaign Police Chief’s Teaching Appointment at Parkland College

Former Champaign Police Chief Robert T. Finney was hired in August, 2020 to teach Community Policing as well as Introduction to Criminal Justice at Parkland College. “Unbelievable” is what one African American community member thought on hearing the news; “Shocking,” … Continue reading

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Taking the Band-Aid Off of Mass Incarceration

On a bad day, those of us seeking justice can find little to be hopeful about. The recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse again reminds us that the law is designed to protect white lives. Even after widespread protests and demonstrations … Continue reading

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Urbana’s Long Search for Traffic-Stop Equity

In 2004 the State of Illinois required all law enforcement agencies to report their annual traffic stop data to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The Urbana Police Department’s (UPD) data shows they have enforced traffic laws inequitably every year … Continue reading

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What’s Understood Need Not Be Explained

I’m curious to know, as a reading eye and listening ear, what are you expecting to hear from me? That the feds were somehow wrong, and Shamar was right? Or that he was justified in putting out some call to … Continue reading

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Ubuntu Project Statement on Automated License Plate Readers

The Ubuntu Project Urbana-Champaign is disappointed to learn that the Champaign City Council is considering voting to purchase license plate readers. Considering the well-documented controversial reputation and questionable value of license plate readers, the Champaign people need more information on … Continue reading

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Debt Peonage in the 21st Century: The Shamar Betts Case Continues

On August 19, Shamar Betts was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison (minus 12 for time served) for authoring a Facebook post. The sentencing also made Betts personally responsible for repaying $1.5 million for damage committed by others at … Continue reading

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The Ubuntu Project and the Need for a Progressive Shift in Policing

Ubuntu is a term that originated with the Zulu people and roughly translates to “humanity” in English. The term emerged as a political concept following apartheid’s disintegration in South Africa. Now a collective of local community members, scholars, clergy, and … Continue reading

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