Big Jesse Jackson lie busted by scrappy Chicago neighborhood website

Jesse Jackson was getting away with a big lie so well that the Chicago Sun-Times even wrote an editorial based on his phony claim. As the old, wry journalism joke goes, Jackson’s lie was so agreeable to the prejudices of MSM-ers, that it was “too good to check.”

Enter the brave and scrappy bloggers at CWB Chicago, a neighborhood blog that:

…was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings.

We knew from city data that robberies in our neighborhood had been soaring to record highs for three consecutive years. Yet public officials and police representatives at CAPS meetings continually said that crime was going down.

Telling the truth and calling BS on pols, papers, and people that perpetuate lies is a habit at CWB Chicago, which is why I read it so often, even though I have never lived in Chicago (though I admit a great fondness for the city, despite its many, worsening problems). Among the worst of those problems: criminals roaming the streets, far too many of them either out on low bail, or charged no bail at all, under the terms of the Illinois Bail Reform Act of 2017.

CWB reported:

Rev. Jesse Jackson made a pre-Christmas plea for 19 publicly-unnamed Cook County Jail inmates to be released. These individuals were jailed merely for being poor, Jackson said, adding that “liberating the poor” was in the spirit of Christmas.

Jackson based his claim on a politician, elected Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart:

Back in March, CWBChicago published a three-part series that exposed holes in Cook County authorities’ claims that hundreds of inmates were jailed in Cook County “just because they are poor” and unable to put down a bail deposit of $1,000 or less.

Our team secured a list of the inmates that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office was referring to when Dart repeatedly made his claim about the “hundreds” of people who were supposedly jailed “because they are poor.” Then, we pulled scores of those inmates’ court files at random.

The truth, we reported on March 6thon March 25th,  and March 26th was that about 85% of the people on Dart’s list had been free on low or no bail, but they violated the terms of their release by skipping court or committing more crimes and wound up back in jail.

Another 10% of the people on Dart’s list were in jail for violating terms of probation sentences.

Jackson and Dart (Image credit: CWB Chicago)

You might think that this would be case-closed material. But if so, you don’t know Jesse.

So, you can imagine that we were skeptical when Rev. Jesse Jackson made a pre-Christmas plea for 19 publicly-unnamed Cook County Jail inmates to be released. These individuals were jailed merely for being poor, Jackson said, adding that “liberating the poor” was in the spirit of Christmas.

A Dart spokesperson claimed that “most of” the 19 individuals had never had a bond review.

Oh, the humanity! Why, it's unjust!

Except that it’s a big fat lie. And it was too good to check for the Sun-Times

[T]he Sun-Times’ editorial board, apparently taking no time to investigate the veracity of Jackson’s claims, wrote an opinion piece calling for the 19 people to be freed.

“There’s no excuse for denying a bond review to people who have a right to one under state law,” they wrote in calling for Jackson’s mysterious 19 prisoners to be unlocked.

CWB Chicago was more rigorous than the editorial board of America’s 35th biggest newspaper, and, it turns out, the Chief Judge of Cook County was not pleased that his courts were being slandered as deficient in their treatment of bond hearings:

CWBChicago last week asked Dart, Jackson, and the Sun-Times to please name the 19 people who were jailed merely for being poor so we could tell their stories publicly. No one responded to our inquiries.

Now, the Sun-Times has published a letter from Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans. The judge wanted to set Jackson, Dart, and the newspaper straight:

“The fact is that our judges previously released 15 of these defendants to the community. For varying reasons, they returned to jail because they did not comply with the terms of either their pretrial release while their cases were pending or their probation sentences that allowed them to avoid prison time when their cases concluded."

Incredible, isn’t it? Evans found the exact same flaws that we found in March. The 19 weren’t jailed merely for being poor. Fifteen of them are jailed because they violated the terms of other release agreements.

Evans went on:

“Three of the defendants were in custody because they were enrolled in substance-abuse treatment in jail. Generally speaking, defendants in jail-based treatment complete a 90-day program so that they can increase their chances of successful sobriety when they return home.”

So, now, these three weren’t jailed for being poor, either. They agreed to be in jail as part of a drug recovery effort.

Of the 19 people Jackson pleaded to have released, only one is unaccounted for in Evans’ letter.

CWBChicago has filed a Freedom of Information request for the 19 individuals’ names and inmate ID numbers. We look forward to telling you the truth about their situations, just as we did about hundreds of others in March.

Stay tuned. This story is not over. But I am not holding my breath for the Pulitzer Prize Committee to take any notice of the achievement of CWB Chicago in correcting a serious lie affetcing public policy endorsed by a major newspaper.

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