This past weekend at Operation Push, the Cook County Bar Association (CCBA), Clerk of the Court Dorothy Brown and Mothers Matter for Justice (MMFJ), convened a community meeting to discuss what happens if you or someone you know happen to find yourself the victim of a violent crime.
The forum featured guest speakers that are involved with, connected to, or assist individuals and families who unwittingly have been affected by Chicago’s muddled violence. Moderated by WVON’s Perri Small, guest panelist included:
Crisis responder, Dawn Valenti of Chicago Survivors; Michael Rodriquez from the Office of the Medical Examiner; attorney Cannon D. Lambert, Sr., who represented the family of Sandra Bland; CPD – Ron Holt, Cynthia Hora, from the Illinois Attorney General Crime Victim Compensation Program, and Assistant State’s Attorney Eugene Wood.
The goal of the forum was to demystify and educate the general public and those affected by violence about the various state actors that they’ll most likely meet on their road to seeking justice and restoration.
Obtaining documents like police reports, medical records and court documents can be perplexing and confusing, especially for someone who has lost a loved one and going through the grieving process. No one knows this better than Miyoshia Bailey, one of the founders of Mothers Matter for Justice, who lost her son, 23-year-old Cortez Bailey, on June 26, 2013.
Bailey believes he was “set up” due to the fact that he received a phone call to meet someone on the street at 75th and Yates. Upon arrival, “someone walked up to him and shot him in broad daylight while others watched,” she shared.
Independent activist, and MMFJ co-founder Takala Welch was inspired by her exposure to the families and victims she met through Chicago Survivors – a first responder organization. “I’ve had dinner with a lot of the families who have lost loved ones,” she says “and very often I hear about loopholes in the system and how they’re turned away disappointed, and in grief,” referring to the treatment that some families might encounter in their pursuit of justice.
Victims are often labelled as gang bangers on social media and this often thwarts the investigation as well as interferes with the family receiving the help they need she tells the Defender. “I do a lot of work all over the city and suburbs, but what drew me specifically to the mothers who lost their children is I see other activist going to support families only when the media was there.
When the media went away and I showed up at some of the funeraIs, I wouldn’t even see those people. I didn’t want to be that kind of activist; I wanted to know about the person that died,” she shared.
The two mothers, along with others established MMFJ in May 2016, to assist families to navigate the system that they say is plagued with misinformation, disinformation and rumors.
“It’s basic information,” says Bailey “it won’t solve anyone’s case but to get people the basic information that they don’t have,” it can make a difference in their situation she insists.
“Having the correct information at your fingertips can make or break a grieving family and the forum was designed to introduce the community to the support that is available but often overlooked because people don’t know these services exist,” says Natalie Howse, president of the CCBA – one of the sponsors.
Dawn Valenti, a crisis responder with Chicago Survivors since 2009 says “Anytime anyone gets killed in the city of Chicago, we get a call from the Chicago Police Department. We can get called out to the crime scene or we can get called out to the hospital. What happens is we approach the family and I explain to the family that we are crisis responders and we are here to help their family.
“We talk to them about going to the Medical Examiner’s Office; when they can go, how many people are allowed to go to the office. We talk about the Crime Victims Compensation which is a program available through the attorney general’s office which helps pay for funeral and burial if there’s no insurance.”
“We also walk them through the whole court system if somebody is in court. If somebody is charged we go to bond court with them.” Valenti shares that in bond court, if someone is a witness or relative of someone involved in a violent situation, they go to court earlier than everyone else so relatives can be briefed on the circumstances, before the hearing begins so that they’re not shocked by the details of the case that may come out in open court.
“We prepare them for what they’re going to hear in court,” she says. In the case that no one is in custody, Valenti says they even assist the victims with posting and passing out flyers in the community asking for the community’s help in solving the crimes.”
“Solving some of these crimes is going to take the whole community working together,” says 32-year-old activist Darius Jackson. “What the mothers are doing is bringing awareness to the issues of Black-on-Black violence as well as police brutality. By joining together gives them the emotional and spiritual support to help them express their grief and keep their loved one’s memory alive,” he shares.
Raydell Lacey, founder of the faith-based organization “Not Before My Parents” lost her daughter to violence twenty-one years ago and just this year – her grandson Erick L. Lacey Jr. – who was shot in the back seat of a friend’s car while on their way to a convenience store.
Lacey says she was invited to the forum by MMFJ “because we support one another.” And shares what her organization does to help stem the violence happening in our communities. “We try to keep the kids off the streets, from guns, drugs and gangs,” she stated.
Using the classic board game – chess – Lacey says that they are challenging our youth to get their minds in a “strategic mode” to think their way out of problems instead of picking up a gun. Inspired by her son who was playing chess after the death of her grandson, she said she noticed how the game helped her son cope with the loss and channel his grief at the same time.
“Our kids are being intimidated by gangs, feeling hopeless, empty and unloved. So they’re easy to draw into the gangs. They feel as though the gang cares about them and don’t think about the consequences that they can lose their life or take someone’s life,” she adds. Chess Moves Against Violence is changing that narrative she tells the Defender.
The Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program
Established in 1973 by the state’s attorney office, the Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program (ICVCP), was enacted with the goal of helping to reduce the financial burden imposed on victims of violent crimes and their families.
The ICVCP can provide up to $27,000 in financial assistance for expenses accrued as a result of a violent crime, according to Cynthia Hora, Division Chief, Crime Victims Services. The funds are tailored as a reimbursement for monies paid for out-of-pocket expenses.
Who is a crime victim?
A person killed or injured in Illinois as a result of a violent crime. • The spouse and parent of a person killed or injured in Illinois as a result of a violent crime. • A person killed or injured in Illinois while attempting to assist a crime victim. • An individual who personally witnessed a violent crime in Illinois.
What Is a violent crime for purposes of the compensation program?
First Degree Murder • Battery • Criminal Sexual Assault • Second Degree Murder • Assault • Criminal Sexual Abuse • Involuntary Manslaughter • Hate Crime • Exploitation of a Child • Reckless Conduct • Stalking • Driving Under the Influence • Child Pornography • Arson • Domestic Battery
What must the claimant do to be eligible for compensation?
Notify law enforcement. Typically, notification must occur within 72 hours of the crime or within 7 days for sexual assaults. A victim can also get an Order of Protection, a Civil No Contact Order, a Stalking No Contact Order or complete a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
File an application within 2 years of the date of the crime or within 1 year of the filing of a criminal charge, whichever is later.
Cooperate with law enforcement officials in the apprehension and criminal prosecution of the offender. However, it is not necessary for an offender to be apprehended for a victim to be eligible for the Compensation Program.
Cooperate with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General and submit and verify information about the crime victim’s compensation claim.
What expenses are eligible for reimbursement?
The compensation program may reimburse the following expenses if they are necessary due to the crime, and if no other sources of reimbursement are available. Caps or limits may apply.
Medical/hospital and dental expenses
Mental health counseling
Loss of earnings (up to $1,250/month)
Relocation (may include temporary lodging, first month’s rent, security deposit, moving van and storage)
Replacement costs (hearing aids, eyeglasses, replacement of clothing/bedding taken as evidence and locks/windows damaged as a result of the incident)
Crime scene clean-up and accessibility & usability of property (wheelchairs, ramps, etc.)
Loss of tuition
Replacement services loss (up to $1,250/month)
Funeral/burial expenses (up to $7,500)
Loss of support (up to $1,250/month)
Transportation to and from medical and counseling treatment facilities
This is a partial listing of the requirements, please visit their website for full details: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/victims/cvc.html
For information about Chicago Survivors visit: http://www.chicagosurvivors.org/
For information about Not Before My Parents visit: http://www.notbeforemyparents.com/experience-1.html
Scheduling for the next MMFJ community forums are being planned – stay tuned for dates and locations.
The Chicago Defender apologize for erroneously stating that Erick L. Lacey, Jr., was the grandson of Takala Welch in the print version of this story. Lacey Jr. is not related to the Welch family. We regret the error.