* Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart had this letter delivered to the governor’s office yesterday evening…
Illinois is in serious financial distress and we owe the citizens of this state an honest conversation about how we address the crisis, both from a fiscal standpoint and a moral one. Like many, I welcome a fresh look at how taxpayer dollars are being used and abused in all levels of government.
Yet, your budget proposals are alarming, not only for their insensitivity to the millions of lives they impact, but also for their lack of financial sense. In the face of jaw-dropping budget shortfalls, politicians for years have looked to cut state services that are crucial to large segments of our population who lack the cash and the lobbyists to fight back.
After just a month in office, you are proposing more of the same. Cutting already strained mental health programs; alcoholism and substance abuse treatment programs; criminal justice services and youth services does nothing to make Illinois a place people want to live. Slashing funding for our most vulnerable children through DCFS and kicking 18-year-old wards to the curb with no transitional support does nothing to right our ship.
Morality aside, such tactics – which are scaring hundreds of thousands of people and children across this state – are simply bad budgeting. When mental health and substance abuse programs are shuttered, where do you think the people needing that care end up? When a DCFS ward – even the ward’s child in some cases – is sent into the world without adequate help, what do you think will happen to that teenager on the street?
We know, all too often, they end up in the most costly government system of all, the criminal justice system. Once there, costs for prosecution and incarceration start racking up every minute, every day, every month.
You know this too. Your own budget calls for spending more money to reduce recidivism to save the state prison system money. You recently announced an ambitious goal to lower the state prison population by 25% in the next 10 years. Yet, cutting social safety net programs will only widen the pipeline to state prison for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Knowing your business acumen, I expected a budget proposal that was not so penny wise and pound foolish with people’s lives. Please reconsider this short-sighted proposal.