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South Side of Chicago Civil Rights AttorneyIn January 2021, Illinois’ landmark Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act began to go into effect. This massive law, inspired in part by George Floyd’s death in police custody and supported by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, enacted a wide range of criminal justice reforms. Now new additions are cracking down even further on police brutality and civil rights violations.

Noteworthy Provisions of the Original Law

Policing Reforms. By 2025, all law enforcement officers must wear body cameras for increased accountability. Anyone can now make a complaint against a police officer, even anonymously. Probationary officers now have to train on the use of force, de-escalation techniques, and mental-illness responses, as well as ethnic and racial sensitivity. Police also have more restricted justifications to use force during arrests and are required to stop other officers from using unapproved force.

Pre-Trial Court Procedures. Starting in 2023, Illinois ends monetary pre-trial bail. Instead, defendants will be released upon promising to appear in court (barring certain restrictions).

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Posted on in Civil Rights

Chicago civil rights lawyersJails and prisons are designed to be unpleasant. They are punitive institutions, after all. However, just because you made a mistake and were sent to a correctional facility does not mean that you immediately lose all your rights. In the United States of America and in the state of Illinois, people confined in jails and prisons still enjoy certain constitutional protections. Being locked up may take away your freedom for the time being, but that does not mean you are entirely at the mercy of the guards. Treating prisoners in an abusive way or failing to meet their basic needs may amount to a civil rights violation that could be taken to court. If you believe that you or someone you care about has had their rights violated in jail or prison, speaking with an attorney should be your next step. 

What Rights Do People Have in Jails and Prisons?

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishments.There are limits as to what means can be applied to punish criminals. Inmates check some, but not all, rights at the jailhouse door. Even if you are locked up, you still have these constitutional protections: 

  • Humane conditions - Even if you have been convicted of a crime, you are still entitled to be housed in humane conditions. Significantly unsanitary or overcrowded conditions can amount to a violation. 
  • Medical care - People in jail cannot leave to secure medical care for themselves. Prisons are charged with the care of their inmates, including necessary health care. Medical treatment inside may not be as good or as easily accessible as it is on the outside, but it must be adequate. 
  • Discrimination - Correctional facilities may not discriminate against inmates based on their membership in a class that enjoys constitutional protections anywhere else. This means that if you faced discrimination based on your race, religion, age, or other such protected traits. 
  • Complaints - Inmates have the right to lodge complaints about prison conditions without fear of retaliation. If you were punished for complaining, your rights could have been violated. 
  • Cruel and unusual punishment - The exact definition of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment can be elusive. Cruel and unusual punishment is a rather broad category. Acts like beating a prisoner who is not resisting or using starvation as a means of discipline certainly meet the criteria. Unfortunately, these are common examples of Eighth Amendment violations rather than extreme cases, as one would hope. 

Abuse of incarcerated persons is a serious issue, both in Chicago and across the nation. Guards may see inmates as easy victims with little recourse or believe that no one cares about the rights of prisoners enough to take action. However, there is recourse through the courts for inmate victims. Filing a civil rights claim can not only help you but also help other inmates who may suffer the same injustices you did. 

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Chicago Civl Rights AttorneyA new report recently filed in federal court against the Chicago Police Department concluded the department was unprepared to effectively handle the massive protests that took place after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last summer. The report cites what is referred to as an “unprecedented number” of complaints against the department for excessive force and numerous other violations.

Lack of Preparation by Chicago Police

The report was prepared by an independent monitoring team put in place to ensure that the Chicago Police Department is in compliance with the federal consent decree put in place by the Attorney General’s office. The consent decree provides a detailed plan for reforms that both the City of Chicago and the police department must implement.

The report found that the department did not have the necessary policies and tools in place to respond effectively to the protests. The monitoring team found that not only did the department fail to predict how widespread the protests would be, but it also did not have the necessary training, equipment, reporting practices, community engagement, data analysis, or interagency coordination in place even if they had been prepared.

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Cook County civil rights lawyer for police misconductPeople can sustain injuries in various situations, such as car crashes, work-related accidents, and slip and falls. Victims may suffer minor to serious and even life-threatening injuries as a result of these incidents. However, individuals can also be subjected to harm at the hands of law enforcement. Unfortunately, those who are sworn to serve and protect sometimes do just the opposite. With a number of recent news stories describing unjustified police shootings and use of force, police brutality has come to the forefront of many government agendas. In January 2021, Illinois lawmakers passed a criminal justice reform bill that would address how police misconduct is handled, including allowing for anonymous complaints against officers.

Pretrial Fairness Act

The state legislature passed the Pretrial Fairness Act, but the bill is still awaiting Governor Pritzker’s signature, and the governor is facing criticism and pressure from police department representatives and other organizations to veto the bill. The bill creates a more robust and progressive plan for monitoring police misconduct throughout the state, including requiring every Illinois police officer to use a body camera by 2025.

The provisions of the expansive criminal justice bill would:

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Chicago civil rights lawyerPolice brutality has been in the news lately, and many may think it simply involves officers using excessive or unreasonable force on suspects. However, police brutality can take other forms, including violating a person’s rights to due process, which can result in serious consequences. Examples of this include false arrest and imprisonment. Besides the psychological damage caused to a person after he or she is wrongfully arrested, other ramifications may take place. An individual could lose his or her job, resulting in significant financial problems and possible loss of child custody or parenting time. Although the U.S. Constitution states that every person is innocent until proven guilty, it is important to note that any civil rights violation is illegal despite a suspect’s innocence or guilt. An experienced civil rights attorney can help injured parties take legal action to hold police officers and police departments responsible for this unlawful behavior and activity.

Rights to Due Process

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, there are certain constitutional rights that every American has. When anyone is taken into custody and questioned, he or she must be informed of the following, known as the Miranda rights:

  • You have the right to remain silent.

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