CHICAGO – The John Howard Association has named State Senator Jacqueline Collins its 2020 Legislator of the Year, highlighting her work in criminal justice reform. The prison oversight group honored Collins Thursday during a virtual forum on pandemic conditions within the prison system.
“There can be no criminal justice reform without prison reform,” Collins said. “And if we truly believe in the redemption of the lost, reform must seek to restore and rehabilitate the human dignity and self-esteem of the incarcerated.”
The award comes as Collins sponsors Senate Bill 3479 during the upcoming fall legislative session, which would require authorities to investigate and report any deaths of those in police or correctional custody to the Illinois Attorney General within 30 days of their death, and that all such reports must be made searchable through the websites of the Secretary of State, Department of Juvenile Justice, and Department of Corrections.
In recent years, Collins has maintained a strong record on criminal justice reform, pushing for more avenues for those wrongfully included on the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth registry to request a review and seek corrections for errors. She also fought to remove fees associated with expunging juvenile criminal records, pushed to more strictly limit the offenses that automatically disqualify individuals from employment with a park district, and has pushed for fairer rules regarding with whom those on parole may associate without prior required written permission when they work in community programs, worship services, volunteering, and engaging families, ensuring fewer unfair parole violations for those reentering their community in good faith.

001collinsCollins calls for more answers from banks as reports, studies highlight inequities

CHICAGO – Testimony from advocates, state government agencies, and banks themselves were all in agreement Thursday: Race remains the biggest predictor of whether somebody is approved for a home loan, and a major factor in how homes are evaluated in an appraisal process. The result, according to reports, studies, and testimony from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, is that Black homeowners in Illinois are simply not receiving loans at anywhere near the rate of homeowners in majority-white neighborhoods.

State Senator Jacqueline Collins, chair of the Illinois Senate Financial Institutions Committee, convened a joint hearing on the topic Thursday, bringing in the Senate Commerce and Economic Development and Senate Executive Committees to discuss the causes of this disparity, with testimony from IDFPR, representatives of the Illinois and Chicago housing authorities, Treasurer Michael Frerichs and representatives of various housing advocacy agencies. Some members of major banks submitted written testimony or attended the virtual hearing, but only JP Morgan Chase’s representative spoke.

“What we want to see is a lending market where race is not the largest predictor of approval for a home loan. We ultimately want to see a lending market where these disparities do not occur,” said Collins (D-Chicago). “We need an end to this cycle of disinvestment, which is at the very root of generational poverty here in Chicago and throughout the state and the country.”

The hearing highlighted findings by a recent report, a joint effort between WBEZ and the journalism nonprofit City Bureau, which highlighted a vast racial disparity in housing in the Chicago area. Among the starkest statistics: For every dollar lent to white neighborhoods in Chicago, just 12 cents make it to Black neighborhoods. The home loans lent just in Chicago’s majority-white Lincoln Park neighborhood total more, in dollars, than the combined amount of every home loan lent to every majority-Black neighborhood in the city combined.

In his testimony, IDFPR’s Acting Director of Banking, Chasse Rehwinkle, said Lincoln Park is not an outlier and that the situation arises from systemic issues that have occurred over decades.

Collins said the challenges of remedying the state of affairs lie partly in state government’s regulatory framework, but stressed also that the behavior of banks must be held to account.

“The solutions to how we achieve a fairer lending market are going to need to come from banking institutions themselves,” Collins said. “I appreciate the representatives of those institutions who have made time to participate today, but I do want to express disappointment that some have declined to do so.”

The hearing was part of an ongoing series organized by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. The question of fairness in economic access is among the four pillars guiding the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ legislative agenda to eliminate systemic racism. The pillars include:

  1. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability
  2. Education and workforce development
  3. Economic access, equity and opportunity
  4. Health care and human services

CHICAGO – Speaking ahead of a joint hearing of several Illinois Senate economic committees Friday, State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) called out structural racism in banking and said urgent change is needed to undo multi-generational barriers that now see Black families in Chicago less likely to own homes than they were before the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968.

“This is what systemic racism looks like and is reminiscent of the notorious era of redlining, the racially discriminatory policy that blocked Blacks from all legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage and opened the door for their exploitation and abuse by the housing, banking and mortgage industry,” said Collins, who chairs the Senate Financial Institutions Committee.

The Senate Financial Institutions, Commerce and Economic Development, Executive, and Local Government Committees comprised the joint hearing Thursday. The subject matter focused on the vast disparity in access to banking services between white and Black Illinoisans. The joint hearing is part of an ongoing series organized by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, with other hearings focusing on criminal justice, education and health care as part of the caucus’ efforts to build a specific legislative agenda leading into the upcoming fall session in Springfield.

Collins cited recent reporting by WBEZ that showed banks in Chicago lend just $0.12 to Black neighborhoods for every dollar they spend in white neighborhoods. For some lenders, that disparity is even more jaw-dropping: JP Morgan Chase, for instance, gave out 41 times the amount of money in home loans to white neighborhoods that it did to Black neighborhoods, according to the report.

“As the Kerner report stated more than 52 years ago, these embedded forms of racial discrimination were created by white institutions, are maintained by white institutions and are condoned by white society,” Collins said. “Now is the time for transparency, equity, accountability and transformational change.”

You can read Senator Collins full remarks below:

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CHICAGO – State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) spoke out in favor of a new $32 million urban farming project announced today to be located in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

“Neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham are so often caught in a cycle of disinvestment, with each lost opportunity making them less attractive when the next one comes along,” Collins said. “What should be clear by now to all of us is that investment is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we give communities like this an opportunity to be part of the future, we can make that future a reality.”

Made possible in part by a $2 million Rebuild Illinois grant from the state, the Green Era Renewable Energy and Urban Farming Campus will focus on producing sustainable food, renewable energy, and using responsible waste disposal practices. A currently vacant, 9-acre lot will serve as the site, with construction scheduled to be completed by spring of 2022. Training and job creation are part of the project’s goals, according to Urban Grower’s Collective, which will operate the site.

A brownfield, the vacant lot will be decontaminated as part of the project through a $1 million loan from the Illinois EPA. Collins thanked the project’s leaders.

“Thank you for sowing seeds enabling us to reap this rich harvest today in Auburn Gresham,” Collins said. “Food deserts are the genesis of what has become a public health crisis in some of our urban areas today. The relationship between access to fresh foods and health, academic performance and overall quality of life is well-known. Urban farming, with job creation, is an investment to transform struggling neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham.”

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