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Gino Betts is a litigator for the Cook County States Attorney’s Office (CCSAO). He is assigned to the South Side Community Justice Center.
While his role is a felony prosecutor in the criminal justice system, Betts “works closely with community stakeholders to prevent violent crimes. We do educational webinars and events to inform residents about crime in their area and what the Justice Center is doing to lower the incidents.”
Chicago’s Justice Centers collaborate with local police departments, community groups, schools, businesses, and residents to prevent crimes. Staff members provide informational seminars and workshops, assistance with court information, and youth prevention programs at local schools, according to Anita Alvarez.
“We recently did a webinar for the 10th Ward about understanding the data. We are very focused on being transparent with the community about the cases we prosecute, the categories of offenses we’re seeing, and making all that information accessible,” Betts stated. The webinar, “Communicating Around Complex Open Data,” available on YouTube, explains how to make sense of the information published on the CCSAO website.
Betts joined the State’s Attorney’s Office in 2009 but left in 2015 to join the Cook County Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management.
“There was a lot happening on the national stage. We saw Eric Garner, an NYPD officer, and then Laquan McDonald, right here in Chicago. I wanted to be part of this national conversation, so I joined the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability as an attorney. It’s called COPA.”
He stayed with COPA until returning to the Cook County States Attorney’s Office in 2019. Betts is also employed as an adjunct professor at DePaul University College of Law.
“He skillfully lead[s] a criminal drafting course for second and third-year law students focusing on drafting and responding to common criminal finding with discussion of legal arguments and strategies,” according to LinkedIn.
During the interview, Betts offered more information about his time with Homeland Security. “The office was comprised of former law enforcement officers and firefighters in their second careers. The department essentially stockpiles equipment. They have a bunch of generators and all types of emergency management equipment, so they can help out neighboring municipalities in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.”
His primary responsibility was to “draft memoranda of understanding between the department and local municipalities where we are lending equipment. This makes sure that we are in compliance with our USC grant,” Betts explained.
“I also did some policy work with the president’s office on an initiative that we thought was important at the time, which would grant police powers to the department. We got as far as drafting the bill and it was presented but it died in committee, so, it didn’t get too far.”
Betts discussed his participation with the state’s Resentencing Initiative. “It is for a limited group of incarcerated individuals who qualify. We are petitioning the court to reconsider their sentences. For The People, a non-profit organization, reviews cases and makes recommendations.”
Once released, it is vital that “these returning residents are not just thrown back into the community, but to have a support system in place. So this is something that we are extremely excited about,” Betts added.
“I have a meeting with our senior advisor to talk about how the Community Justice Center can play a role in the rollout of this initiative. I know a lot of folks on the South side of Chicago that have family members who have been incarcerated, I, personally, have had incarcerated family members.” Betts is passionate about the Resentencing Initiative. He repeatedly pointed out its importance and potential impact.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Interview: Gino Betts, April 22, 2022
LinkedIn: Gino Betts
States Attorney: Community Justice Centers
Chicago Defender: State’s Attorney Kim Fox Announces New Resentencing Initiative
Featured and Top Image Marco Verch’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Gino Betts – Used With Permission