Illinois Forges New Approach to Public Safety Spending with Innovative Use of $20 Million in COVID-19 DOJ Stimulus Funds

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 26, 2020

Contact: [email protected]


As Criminal Justice Budgets Get New Scrutiny, New Report Shows How $850 Million for States, Typically for Law Enforcement, Can Fund Community-Based Public Safety Alternatives & Reentry – Exactly What Illinois Has Pioneered


Chicago – As cities and states across the country re-evaluate their policing and criminal justice spending, Illinois has pioneered an innovative use of its portion of $850 million in CARES Act funding from the U.S. Department of Justice that gives states discretion on its use for public safety.


The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) has moved to allocate all of its nearly $20 million federal stimulus funding to reentry efforts and community organizations that operate key public safety programs in communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and violence. The funding, typically used solely to support law enforcement and criminal justice system operations, is an important recognition of the role that organizations on the front lines in communities, providing reentry, crime victim and violence prevention services, play in advancing public safety.


“Illinois has taken a critical step to revamp public safety spending by recognizing the role of a community’s health and the local community-based groups in making people safer,” said Robert Rooks, CEO and co-founder of the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ), which helped secure the redirection of the Illinois funds as part of the Illinois Coalition for Shared Safety. “This is an innovative example of how states can invest in safety by supporting communities most impacted by the pandemic — one for others to clearly understand.”


The funds are part of the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). There is $850 million available for states and local jurisdictions to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” supporting a broad range of activities.


Illinois recently moved to allocate all of its portion of these DOJ funds, approximately $20 million, to reentry efforts and community groups working on the frontlines of public safety. While BJA funds are typically used for law enforcement and criminal justice operations, this allocation amounts to a direct investment in organizations outside the justice system—organizations that operate key public safety programs in mental health, drug treatment, trauma recovery, reentry, violence prevention, and other areas.


The new funding, distributed by ICJIA, was advocated for by the newly-formed Illinois Coalition for Shared Safety, first in a letter to the state agency.


Founding coalition member, Alliance for Safety and Justice, played a critical role in the effort: hosting a virtual town hall in April with state legislators and the head of ICJIA that highlighted challenges community-based providers face during the pandemic, engaging the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, and working directly with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).


Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Jehan Gordon Booth, who rallied the Legislative Black Caucus to advocate for this funding allocation, noted the impact: “We need to make sure that communities hardest hit by both crime and violence and COVID-19 have the emergency services necessary to keep them safe and healthy. Despite their resilience, Black neighborhoods across this state are struggling and it’s critical that we leverage every tool at our disposal to augment and not supplant critical spending priorities.”


The Illinois news coincides with a new report from the Alliance for Safety and Justice and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University that highlights these funds can help support re-entry and victim services, as well as violence prevention programs, in communities. The report found that four out of five reentry and crime survivor programs in the U.S. are straining to meet the growing needs posed by COVID-19 due to lack of funding. Another recent survey found that 75 percent of reentry-service providers have stopped providing some services or closed operations since the onset of the pandemic.


Coalition leaders celebrated the groundbreaking news and took the opportunity to underscore the public safety importance of funding frontline service providers.


Domestic violence has not stopped and is likely increasing during this time.  Community based organizations that provide emergency assistance are as vitally important to our communities as government emergency services,” said Vickie Smith, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


Vaughn Bryant, Executive Director of Communities Partnering for Peace (CP4P), a partnership of leading outreach organizations working to impact Chicago communities most affected by gun violence, stated: “Just like governmental criminal justice entities, Illinois’ critical assistance service providers are on the front lines of this crisis. Many of our program staff are working in communities that are disproportionately impacted by deaths caused by COVID-19. We are in desperate and immediate need of resources like personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, client financial assistance and technology that will allow us to work with impacted people while maintaining safe and healthy physical distance.”


John Maki, Local and State Government Best Practices Director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, said: “Illinois does not rely merely on government agencies to keep its communities safe. Essential nongovernmental service providers like domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, reentry initiatives, and street outreach programs are the backbone of our state and local safety system, particularly in this crisis. There is no better time to underscore the importance of these programs than by funding them appropriately.”


About the Illinois Coalition for Shared Safety

The Illinois Coalition for Shared Safety advocates for funding support for communities in most need of health and safety resources.


Founding members include: Acclivus Inc.; Alliance for Safety and Justice; Alliance of Local Service Orgs. (ALSO); Apna Ghar, Inc.; Breakthrough Urban Ministries; Chicago CRED; Claretian Associates; Communities Partnering for Peace (a CP4P–a partnership of more than a dozen leading outreach organizations working to impact Chicago communities most affected by gun violence); Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice IL; Enlace Chicago; Heartland Alliance; Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Inner-City Muslim Action Network; Institute for Nonviolence Chicago; New Life Centers; Metropolitan Family Services; Mothers on a Mission; New Life Centers; ONE Northside; Padres Angeles; Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation; Project Hood; READI Chicago; Roseland Ceasefire; Sarah’s Inn; Sisterhood; SWOP (Southwest Organizing Project); Target Area DevCorp; and UCAN.



About the Alliance for Safety and Justice

The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 42,000 crime survivors. For more information, visit: