Discussion on Capitol Hill over whether the U.S. should take military action to punish Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people is heating up, and Illinois lawmakers are weighing their decisions. On one side of the coin, many worry about war fatigue and fear of triggering greater conflicts in the Middle East. On the other, fear that a failure to take action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime will “embolden war criminals, dictators and despots for years to come.”
According to a Washington Times article, President Obama spoke to a crowd in Stockholm, Sweden. “"I do think we have to act. Because if we don’t, we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn it and issue resolutions and so forth and so on, somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity and those international norms begin to erode and other despots and authoritarian regimes can start looking and saying, ‘That’s something we can get away with,’ ” Mr. Obama said.”
But the decision is not so clear for members of the Illinois delegation.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. To commemorate the event, tens of thousands of people have returned to the National Mall this week, remembering this pivotal point in history and refocusing efforts on the future. According to The Huffington Post, Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, told a crowd that if not for the march 50 years ago, he would not be in office, nor would Barack Obama be president. “They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept,” Holder said. The article also quoted Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader, at a weekend rally.
This week Illinois passed a law that gives a concealed-carry permit to anyone who has passed a background check, taken a 16-hour gun-safety training course and owns a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. The permit costs $150. According to a news report from Illinois Public Media, all lawmakers from east central Illinois backed the override of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the concealed-carry legislation. Illinois is the last state in the nation to pass a concealed-carry law, and, as the roundup of articles below shows, its passage did not come without controversy. Illinois enacts nation’s final concealed-gun law – The State Journal-Register
“Illinois joined the rest of the nation Tuesday by authorizing its residents to carry concealed weapons.
This week the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, violated the Constitution. According to an article in the New York Times, the Supreme Court “went further than the federal government ever has in extending equal rights to same-sex couples. But it left untouched the thicket of conflicting state and local laws that deny gays and lesbians in the vast majority of states the benefits and legal recognition that marriage provides.”
Same sex couples do not receive the same rights at heterosexual couples in Illinois, and this week’s ruling once again puts the issue in the spotlight. Below is a roundup of recent news coverage.
No clear direction on gay marriage in Illinois after court ruling – The News-Gazette
“It’s unclear whether Wednesday’s major victories in the U.S. Supreme Court will bolster the cause of gay marriage in the Illinois House of Representatives.
By Amy Harwath/CU-CitizenAccess.org — While the debate continues about whether to shutdown Champaign County’s downtown jail, a consultant hired by the county is pushing for a new system for better assessments of how dangerous offenders are. The consultant, Alan Kalmanoff, believes that such a change will have a longer impact. He said in a draft of his report that objectively assessing criminal offenders will minimize the county jail population and expediently move them through the criminal justice system. This week Kalmanoff, of the Berkeley, Calif. consulting firm Institute for Law and Policy Planning, presented the draft of his final jail assessment report to the Champaign County Board.
By Amy Harwath/CU-CitizenAccess.org — On Wednesday, April 17 the group Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a public hearing with jail consultant Alan Kalmanoff to air their concerns and ask questions about his ongoing evaluation of the Champaign County jail. Over 70 people were in attendance, from local community members to graduate student members of the Planners Network to county officials and board members including Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey and Sheriff Dan Walsh. The hearing was originally scheduled for the beginning of the month but was postponed because Kalmanoff has been ill. He joined in the conversation remotely via audio and video from his home in Berkeley, Calif. Most questions were about racial and gender disparities in the jail as well as who should provide medical and mental health care for inmates.
The United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week over the constitutionality of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, denies federal recognition and benefits for same-sex couples even if their unions are recognized by states. Here’s a look at some of the most recent reports on the issues. A Look at the Issues in the Defense of Marriage Act Case – The New York Times
“The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear almost two hours of arguments on Wednesday morning over the constitutionality of a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. Here is a look at the background of the case, United States v. Windsor, No.
The transition for mentally ill inmates from the Champaign County jail to community services is seriously hampered by a lack of coordination and communication between the jail officials and local mental health providers, according to a top county mental health official and a jail consultant hired by the county. The consultant, Alan Kalmanoff, director of the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, said the current system is a failure and called it “an earthquake of an issue.”
Peter Tracy, executive director of the county’s Mental Health Board, attributed the problems to decreases in state funding for local services. He said the mental health board “has done an admirable job of using our local resources to address gaps in the behavioral health system created by State of Illinois funding cuts, but unfortunately we can’t manage to cover all of the gaps.” Kalmanoff said community counselors do not have a consistent and formal way of knowing when an inmate who needs mental health treatment is released. Counselors have an informal system in which they rely on a jail contractor counselor or County Sheriff Dan Walsh to alert them about inmates who need treatment.
By Amy Harwath / For CU-CitizenAccess.org — Some people who are in a dire financial situation may feel that they have no choice but to deal drugs. But Aaron Ammons was not in a dire situation. And he still dealt drugs. “I got caught up into the streets, wanting to hang out, be cool, do what everybody else was doing, trying to make money,” he said. That was over 20 years ago.