The Very Real & Present Danger of Prison Overcrowding

The start of this entry began as a humorous look at the state of overcrowding currently being experienced at Cook County Department of Corrections and Illinois Department of Corrections. After a period of research that highlighted the devastating effects potentially caused by detention center overcrowding, the humorous aspect has been eliminated and in its place a plea to state legislators for common sense to prevail.

Sheriff Tom Dart
Governor Pat Quinn


Cook County Department of Corrections, the largest single site correctional facility in the country is under the direct supervision of the Sheriff of Cook County Thomas (Tom) Dart. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says the jail is nearly full, and he’s concerned that the facility will be bursting at the seams as summer months approach and arrests typically rise with the mercury. Operating a capacity that teeters constantly between 96% and 100% at any given time, the stage has been set for a calamity . Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she doesn’t have enough money to house anymore inmates in Cook County Jail.  She wants the jail to get rid of about 1500 inmates because the place is overcrowded and the county doesn’t have the cash for anyone else.

In a similar dilemma, Illinois Department of Corrections is faced with a statewide issue of overcrowding. In 2010, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, under pressure from Associated Press, did away with the standard good time allotment that allowed deserving inmates to be released 90 to 180 days ahead of their scheduled release dates. In an effort to save the State of Illinois but instead adding insult to injury, Gov. Quinn has proposed and proceeded to close various prisons around the state. To deal with the overcrowding, IDOC plans to use gymnasiums at more than half a dozen prisons across the state to house inmates.

Ironically, over 70% of the residential bodies of both IDOC as well as CCDOC consist of nonviolent offenders. This means that both of these departments are filled with inmates that are NOT a threat to public safety. In the rest of the country drug addiction had been classified as a disease; however in Illinois, addicts are arrested and regarded as criminals. Each institution houses a great many individuals in dire need of mental health assistance. The reconsideration and reassignment of individuals within those two categories alone would reduce the inmate  population by at least 50%.

 As a final appeal for change, a list has been included below. The list is comprised of American detention facilities that thought overcrowding was a good idea. Behind the names and locations are the dates and casualties caused by the uprising at these institutions. Hopefully Cook County and the State of Illinois can avoid their place on the list and in history.

  • Southport Correctional Facility, New York, June 29, 1990 – 27 people injured
  • Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Easter Sunday, 1993 – 9 inmates killed, 1 corrections officer.
  • San Quentin State Prison, California, January 2006 – at least 25 injured
  • North County Correctional Facility, Castaic, California, February 2006 – 1 inmate killed, over 100 injured
  • New Castle Correctional Facility Riot, New Castle, Indiana, 24 April 2007
  • 2009 Northpoint Training Center riot in Danville, Kentucky, August 21, 2009 – 80 inmates involved, 5 buildings burned down
  • Adams County Correctional Center, Natchez, Mississippi, May 20, 2012.

Chicago’s Uncommon Serial Killers

Sometimes Killers Don’t Fit Profiles

When said out loud or read in text, the term serial killer places several images in the minds of most. Old A.P. photos of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy instantly materialize in our heads. Maybe headlines of past news articles detailing the exploits of the “Green River Killer”, come to mind. Even scenes of box office smashes such as “Psycho”, rush into our conscious thinking. We’ve learned from law enforcement that serial killers are normally classified as lower to middle class white males in their late 20’s to early 30’s.

In 2004, Chicago was the killing field for two serial killers that would have given the “Criminal Minds” crew the flux. Two African-American, female cousins labeled, “The Killing Cousins” or “The Southside Slayers”, etched their names in history.


Often we hear of prostitutes being the victims of heinous murders. In the spring and summer of 2004, Caroline Peoples & Angel Wright-Ford used the pretense of sexual gratification to lure at least 3 men and 1 woman to their untimely demise. On May 23, 2004 Jose Marquez, being promised sexual acts for money, was shot in his head in his apartment. Wright-Ford had previously been a caregiver to this partially disabled man.

The two struck again on June 1, 2004. Kenneth Redick thought it was his lucky night as he accompanied two women to his Southside apartment. The three discussed the “events”, of the evening and soon disrobed. Seconds later, Redick laid dead, the victim of a gunshot to the head.

On June 18, 2004 the two cousins (whose bloodlust was only surpassed by their greed), were out cruising “looking for someone to rob”. Their paths crossed with Kevin Armstrong outside a Southside currency exchange. As their van pulled up, Mr. Armstrong was stashing his money in his sock, (a common Southside Chicago practice). Wright-Ford encouraged him to climb into the van with the lure of oral sex, Peoples waiting quietly in the back. Moments later Kevin Armstrong was their next victim, dumped in a bowling alley parking lot with a gunshot to the head.

The fourth known victim was Ayesha Epps, a former friend of Peoples. The two offered Ms. Epps a ride to White Castle. When they arrived at the restaurant, Epps went inside to order, as the two cousins quietly plotted her end. Upon her return to the vehicle, Peoples shot Epps one time in the face. Gurgling blood and jerky frantically, Wright-Ford impatiently took the gun and shot Ms. Epps in the head.

Charged with the four murders, Peoples and Wright-Ford arrogantly gave videotaped confessions leading Chicago Police to believe in the possibility of more victims though no evidence to that fact was found. After a lengthy trial, spanning over five years, the killing cousins were sentenced to life and are currently in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Panhandling-Not Just For The Homeless Anymore

What happened to the days when youth athletic teams actively looked for sponsors for their leagues? Years ago teams, groups, & organizations actually prepared fundraising strategies to develop finances for their cause. Here in Chicago, (maybe in your city too) beware of the red light, for at every major intersection, in almost every residential community, waits youth of all ages, waiting to beg from you! Gone are the days when organizations and teams put thought and effort into raising funds. Events such as candy & taffy apple sales or car washes that paid for equipment, trips and uniforms are things of the past. All you need now is a plastic McDonald’s cup and a cause to hit the streets and beg for it.
Pathetic and hilarious at the same time, youth in tattered sports apparel, teenage dance troupes & the usual homeless people compete for the right to ask you for money., Coaches & instructors are sacrificing the self-respect & dignity of our youth by permitting them to beg in the streets, Formerly practiced by derelicts and social outcasts, panhandling has been deemed acceptable and profitable. Parents, instructors, or coaches that should be instilling values such as self-respect and integrity within these children are behind the scenes “pimping” them and robbing them of their dignity by permitting these activities to take place.
Enough is enough. Mentors, teachers, leaders of these clubs, teams or organizations please take these kids off of these streets and utilize better fundraising techniques. There are other ways to procure capital, fundamental methods that have been proven lucrative, time and time again. The act of putting children in the street to beg does nothing but enhance the stereotypical perception of our people. How can you be respected as an authority figure in the lives of these children when they are constantly exposed to the dangers of the streets? One thing that is certain, if we don’t take our kids from the streets, the streets will surely take our kids from us.

Our Need for the Reclamation of Integrity

Straying away from the normal based issues normally addressed here, I want to ask a question. Has anyone been checking out the news lately? If so, has anyone noticed that integrity & morality has taken a back seat to a multitude of superficial issues such as profits, headlines, political views and general ulterior motives.

Has our current economic conditions given us carte blanche to simply do “whatever” to get & stay ahead. Recently, I’ve read various news reports of increased street crimes, unfortunately that will continue to rise during holiday seasons. As a consultant, I’ve seen a sharp increase in individuals wanting to establish, “unsavory” businesses in order to make ends meet. Not to mention the practice of political smear campaigns currently being used.

To continue to illustrate the complete lack of integrity displayed today, this column would continue indefinitely. Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as: a steadfast adherence to a set of morals. Yet today we see a growing trend of individuals erasing or altering those personal set of morals to obtain superficial goals or favor.

Having been an individual that has previously taken short cuts & paid the price for each of my indiscretions and character flaws, I am overqualified in posting this warning. Please, reestablish ground rules and re-claim integrity. The benefits gained by shortcuts and settling are faux and will diminish quickly. The consequences of a lack of integrity affect generations to come. Therefore, if morals mean nothing to you personally, think of your children & their children. We must teach our children to do the right thing for the right reasons.

Finally, decide for yourself, your level of morality. So called religious leaders cannot be used as a measuring stick in this manner. I have always believed that it is each individual’s job to continually strive for perfection of character. If we indeed correct our personal character flaws, set our moral barriers and utilize integrity in our daily decision making. The effects would be monumental as great number issues would be resolved. Integrity based thinking would create a people with impeccable character, a people with potential beyond boundaries & without measure.

The Real Reason for the Rise in Chicago Violence.

The violence that plagues the streets of Chicago is not new. Though it has only recently been reported by media outlets around the world, the violence in the streets of Chicago has existed for decades. Another fact that you might find interesting and hopefully shocking, it isn’t by chance, believe it or not, all of this destruction was planned. Please read on as I bring you up to snuff.

The Real Reason for the Rise in Chicago Violence 3

During the 50’s and 60’s massive amounts of heroin was “dumped” in Black communities around the country. This was done as a strategic maneuver to cause mass addiction and to quell the civil rights movement which at that time was gaining momentum. In the 70’s, the Nixon administration initiated the ”War on Drugs”, under the guise as an effective means for law enforcement to take down and prosecute drug cartels that seemed to operate above the law. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan the “war on drugs” was reinstituted and the “Just Say No” campaign swept America, unfortunately, so did “crack” cocaine. Americans oblivious to its true intentions supported the laws and statutes that came about from the “war”.

What actually happened was the statutes of this war gave law enforcement carte blanche to violate the constitutional rights of Blacks. According to federal records, there were no Blacks arrested for the transport and wholesale sale of narcotics. In fact only 33% of those arrested for ANY drug related offenses were Black, yet 73% of those serving time for those same offenses were Black. According to a 1998, University of Georgia study, Blacks receive sentences and average of 6 months longer than non-Blacks for the same crimes. According to Federal statistics, due to crack’s prevalence in predominantly Black neighborhoods the sentencing for “crack” convictions is 3 times as long as the sentencing for “cocaine” convictions.

Illinois prisons are filled with an astonishing amount of non-violent petty offenders. Illinois incarcerates Blacks on an 8 to 1 ratio to whites for drug related offenses.  The population of Illinois Department of Corrections has a population of 60% Black with over two thirds incarcerated for non-violent offenses such as drug possessions. Whites and blacks engage in drug offenses at similar rates, yet an overwhelming focus of law enforcement on drug use in low-income urban areas, with arrests and incarceration the main weapon.  Furthermore Blacks were 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites in every year between 1980 and 2007. Illinois has a greater percentage for putting more African Americans behind bars for drug crimes than whites than any other state in the nation. Between 2000 and 2007, simple pot possession arrests alone accounted for between 37.7% and 42.1% of all drug arrests.

The violence in the streets of Chicago and other metropolitan areas is a direct result of the mass incarceration of the Black male and its devastating effects on the Black community.  Society grooms us to believe and accept that law enforcement and the judicial system, is right and fair and those that run afoul of it must be wrong or guilty. Potential employers, institutes of education and even family members look upon an individual with a felony conviction with utter disdain. The judicial system has devised a way to legalize discrimination by placing a permanent blot on an individual, no matter the circumstances or how petty the offense. The likelihood of a Black male, convicted of petty offenses such as drug possession, acquiring gainful employment is slim at best. Regardless of a nonviolent criminal history, the conviction placed on his record makes it legal for this individual to endure hardships parallel to those instituted during the Jim Crow era. The scene for re-offense is set as the frustration due to the inability to provide for his family mounts, thus resulting in probable re-incarceration.

The father provides a vital asset to the family structure as well as the Black community. Through the mass incarceration of Black men, the mission to disassemble the Black family has been achieved. Men are the head of the family, families create communities. Taking out the Black male creates communities that lack any form of leadership. When young men are raised without the influence of a positive male they often lack the ability to apply logical analytical problem solving to everyday situations. These emotionally charged young men often apply irrational solutions to rational circumstances. In many cases these men grow into adulthood with resentment for the absence of the father. Others may lack respect for a father unable to provide for his family.  The young men grow into adulthood seeing society as a two sided group, the haves and the have nots. Many develop an erred since of entitlement, a bleak outlook on future life with a total disregard for their own life as well as the lives of others. With the absence of a real sense of self-worth, a false sense is developed, guided not by the laws of the land but replaced with the laws of the street, laws that classify individuals as either predator or prey. As a result, violence ensues and death numbers skyrocket.

The violence perpetrated in Chicago streets come as a direct result of the mass incarceration of the Black male. Laws, put in place by the “War on Drugs”, have caused great loss of life here in Chicago. It is not uncommon to cruise through Black neighborhoods and see tactical police officers patting each other on the back and giving high fives for taking down an old man in possession of some minute amount of drugs. In the distance, the sound of rapid gun fire from automatic weapons can be heard; a sound as common as chirping birds to Black community residents. This activity is followed immediately by another familiar sound, easily recognizable to Black community residents, a mother’s cry of pain due to her slain child as the detective in charge of the case simply writes another murdered youth off as gang related or drug related so that it can be added to the 75% plus of the unsolved homicides here in Chicago. I guess to the powers that be the “War on Drugs” is working exactly as planned.