(ST. CHARLES, Ill.)—Probation officers and youth counselors employed by the 16th Judicial Circuit Court have begun going door-to-door to alert Kane County families about the potentially rising danger presented by approximately 3,000 criminal offenders convicted of felonies and misdemeanors not being supervised by the striking public safety workers. The list of offenders includes approximately 150 sex offenders, 70 felony domestic violence offenders, 550 juvenile offenders and 100 high risk offenders.
The growing problem continues because Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles refuses to honor the preexisting schedule of pay increases for the probation officers and youth counselors who have been forced to go out on strike since April 30.
The public safety workers began visiting homes in Kane County to alert families about how the county’s decision to cut spending and the chief judge’s handling of contract negotiations may have undermined safety since the strike began. Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has failed to intervene in the situation or to offer additional funding that the chief judge claims is needed.
The probation officers and youth counselors are informing the community of the facts and asking that community residents sign a petition that urges the chief judge to negotiate fairly and the county board to intervene in order to find resolution.
“I’ve visited a number of community residents who did not realize that the county board and the court may be endangering the community by allowing the strike to continue for so long,” said Sousie Jenkins, a probation officer who has worked for the court for 17 years. “I think our door-to-door campaign about how the county board and the court need to work together to resolve the problem is critical to restoring a sense of safety here. We are asking all residents to sign our petition titled “Restore Public Safety in Kane County.“
The petition describes how felony cases are surging in Kane County, yet the county cut spending on public safety and eliminated programs designed to monitor dangerous criminals awaiting trial. Adding to that problem now is a large number of criminal offenders not being supervised and monitored by the highly-trained and professional probation officers on strike. The Teamsters are calling for an investigation as to whether some or many of the criminal offenders have been properly supervised at all.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but this goes far beyond us,” said Marc McGowan, a senior youth counselor for the past 15 years. ”People after me will benefit from our struggle. It’s a shame that things have gone this far.”
The strike, now in its fifth week, is having a serious impact on family members of striking workers.
“I have a young son and a home mortgage. It’s scary for me to think about not being able to make payments and not being able to provide for my son, but this strike is about principle and our future,” said Jared Weiser, a youth counselor.
“We are asking the chief judge to put forward an improved offer that we can bring to our members and we are asking the county board to take the necessary actions needed to make that happen, not only for the dedicated probation officers and youth counselors on strike, but for the serious safety concerns facing the county. The truth will be told,” said Dominic Romanazzi, President of Local 330 which represents the workers on strike.
Teamsters Local 330, based in Elgin, Ill., is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25.