Ben Wolf (second from right) testifies before the
Senate Human Services Committee on behalf of clients protected under ACLU consent decrees

The Governor’s veto of the state budget – and the continuing lack of a budget six months into the fiscal year – are creating significant problems for the ACLU’s most vulnerable people. Over the past few months, the ACLU has returned on several occasions to federal court in order to insure that the State continues to provide services mandated under consent decrees in several cases serving people with disabilities, children under the care of DCFS, and youth detained in the state’s juvenile detention facilities. Even while we have been successful in keeping services for our clients, we are seeing that the budget stalemate is eroding the basic services for the poor and the vulnerable in our society.

This work underscores how critical consent decrees enforced by federal courts can be in fixing long-standing problems in our society. Sadly, in the course of making sure that our clients remain protected, we are seeing some in government attack the consent decrees arguing – ludicrously – that they are no longer necessary.

It bears repeating in this moment that the ACLU and other advocacy groups filed lawsuits against the State of Illinois to force substantial improvements to systems that serve the politically-powerless in our society. In each case, we brought a lawsuit because the State of Illinois had failed systemically over decades to provide constitutionally adequate services to these groups of people. Moreover, the State always has the capacity to end these decrees – by fixing the problems that were identified in the original complaint and put in place protections that guarantee that the systems will not backslide.

Instead, what the State has regularly done in these cases is dither, miss agreed-upon deadlines and fail in the most basic way to meet the needs of people in its care. While some seek to use this budget “crisis” as a moment to blame consent decrees for the problems of our State, the ACLU will remain steadfast in holding the State of Illinois to its commitments.

Next: Ending Juvenile Solitary

Previous: Fighting for Transgender Rights 

Annual Report Home