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Darrow event to focus on impact of poverty, racism on Cook County Jail
2016-02-27

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CHICAGO — In 1902, famed attorney Clarence Darrow told a roomful of inmates in the Cook County Jail that people are in jail "simply because they cannot avoid it on account of circumstances which are entirely beyond their control." This year—when many of the inmates of Cook County Jail are still locked up because they cannot afford $5,000 bail, because they committed crimes of survival, or because they are mentally ill—the annual Darrow symposium on the seventy-eighth anniversary of Darrow's death ( Sunday, March 13 ) explores why this should still be true.

Speaking on the topic "Cook County Jail: Then and Now, The Impact of Poverty and Racism," Hanke Gratteau, who is director of the Cook County Sheriff's Justice Institute, will describe today's jail population and the efforts underway to create enlightened policies and practices regarding incarceration and housing evictions. Under Gratteau's leadership, the Institute mines data to expose the consequences of criminalizing homelessness, mental illness, drug dependency, and the devastating effects of generational poverty.

This year's event also includes a dramatic performance by actress and producer Fawzia Mirza of Darrow's famous 1902 address to the prisoners in Cook County Jail. Mirza uses performance, personal storytelling and comedy to break down stereotypes across a multiplicity of identities: race, religion, sexual orientation and gender.

The day begins with a brief ceremony and wreath-tossing near the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park at 10 a.m., where Darrow's ashes were scattered after his death and where, as a bet, he once agreed his spirit would return if it turned out communication was possible from the afterworld. The bridge is closed due to construction, so the ceremony will be just to the east of the Darrow tribute marker. For the past 59 years, through the annual commemoration ceremony and lecture, Darrow's spirit has returned—usually to remind us that his work is not yet done.

After the ritual outdoor wreath-tossing, guests will move inside to the Museum of Science and Industry's Rosenwald Room ( formerly the Columbian Room ) for light refreshments and presentations at 10:45 by the featured speakers.

Darrow, who died March 13, 1938, is remembered for his crusading role as "attorney for the damned" in such controversial cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Leopold and Loeb murder case, and the pardoning of the Haymarket anarchists.

DIRECTIONS: The Clarence Darrow Bridge is behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Since it is currently under constructions, the wreath-tossing ceremony will take place just east of the bridge. Driving south on Lake Shore Drive, pass the light at 57th Drive and turn right at the next light [Science Drive]. You will come almost immediately to Columbia Drive. If you turn left and follow Columbia Drive there is metered parking near the bridge. You may park at meters near the OmniMax Theater and walk south to the bridge.

For more details see www.darrowbridge.org .


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