A couple of weeks ago, we asked for help in raising half of the whopping $7,000 that Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown's office said it would charge The Chicago Reporter for pulling some criminal court records that we had been trying to track down. It turns out, folks in high places were listening.
We were advised to resubmit our request to Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans' office. We did. And he's since agreed to waive the fees. That said, the project is moving forward.
In the end, our goal is to explore what's driving the mass incarceration of poor people of color--and men in particular--from here in Chicago. The first investigation in the lineup is politicking from the bench. We want to know whether judges and prosecutors are more inclined to impose stiffer charges and sentences to boost their stats during election years.
Today, we got word that the clerk's office has pulled a one-year sample of the data. In the near future, we should have the remaining nine years. (If you're anything like us, you're geeking out over the prospect of a decade worth of court records.)
In the next year, we plan to do a series of stories with the data. We have all sorts of ideas for how we can tell the story of the mass incarceration of people from our own neighborhoods. That's where you, and your support, come in.
Because we've received the data we needed, we're reducing the amount of our campaign from $3500 to $1500. We'll use the funds that have already been donated - and the funds we're sure to raise - to elevate this series in a new way.
Our vision is to invest in creating interactive graphics that can tell the story of politicking from the bench, sentencing disparities and the toll they're taking on our city. We'll turn to other parts of the state that are making a buck off the current system as well. We'll be using an innovative infograph platform--among the tools being considered are Google Fusion and Weave--and the $1500 in funding we are requesting for this project will cover the costs for two of our staffers to get trained on the platform and help offset production costs.
If you want to see this project happen and are even willing to throw some money behind it, a little support will go a long way. And if you have ideas for untold stories that are begging to be told, we're all ears.Posted by The Chicago Reporter on 03/07/12