South Shore Nature Sanctuary Still Alive / “Ban”ville Correctional Center

Notes from the 8/21/19 issue

South Shore Nature Sanctuary Still Alive

Recently, Ald. Leslie Hairston offered a bizarre assessment of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary. Environmentalists have advocated against the proposal for a Tiger Woods–designed golf course in South Shore, which would replace part of the sanctuary with a fairway. While some of the sanctuary would remain, it would no longer include any lakefront, and any visitors would have to constantly keep an eye out for poorly hit golf balls. According to Hairston, however, there’s nothing there to destroy: the sanctuary is “actually all dead. And it’s been dead for some years.”

This would be a dubious claim in January, but in summer it defies all reason. Any visitor can see thousands of flowers scattered across the prairies and woodlands that make up the sanctuary. The land teems with human life as well: just last Saturday, it played host to Monarch Festival, celebrating the monarch butterflies that call the lakefront home. Both animals and people are able to enjoy the sanctuary because of the hard work of volunteers at monthly stewardship days, defying Hairston’s claim that the sanctuary is “all dead” because “there was nobody to maintain it.”

Hairston clearly hasn’t been to the sanctuary in a while. She should visit. Seeing that the sanctuary is very much alive might encourage her to think about a plan for the golf courses that doesn’t require sacrificing Chicago’s most beautiful lakefront park.

“Ban”ville Correctional Center

Several months ago, Lee Gaines reported for Illinois Newsroom that hundreds of books were removed from the library at Danville Correctional Center. At the time, Illinois Department of Corrections director John Baldwin claimed that the books had not been appropriately reviewed and were removed once this was discovered. But last week Peter Nickeas uncovered for the Chicago Tribune that the real motivation for the removal was concern over “racial” content in the books.

In response to these concerns, Danville not only removed hundreds of books, but also canceled all classes offered by the Education Justice Project, a program that offers college courses to incarcerated students. A memo from an assistant warden also called out materials related to “Diversity and Inclusion” as a cause for concern. It is hard to imagine how the forbidden books, such as Visiting Day, could truly meet the criteria for rejection. In what world can officers claim with a straight face that a children’s book about a young girl who visits her father in prison “advocates or encourages violence, hatred, or group disruption” or “encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity”?

The EJP program was later reinstated, and the books were eventually returned after reporting on the removal, but no changes to policy or process have been made. We hope that some combination of politicians, activists, and citizens can force Danville to fix its review policy and start maintaining a list of approved publications as is required by statute. Or better yet, if prisons cannot obey basic laws, perhaps we should simply abolish them altogether.

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