By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
After freeing 46 people out of the Cook County Jail for a total of 110 detainees over the last three weeks, business icon Dr. Willie Wilson is now expanding his bail program nationwide and is calling for federal support in banning the privatization of prisons.
“I am expanding our program nationally because when I ran for mayor and for the president, I saw that the same problems existed for minorities and poor people around the country. I just want to try to make a difference. Besides, no non-violent offender should languish in jail just because they can’t make bail,” said Wilson.
Poverty, Wilson said, “is a major problem, and if I can help get some of them out of jail to prevent them from being exposed to a life in prison where some get raped, it is an honor to do so. Some of them are in jail for stealing food to eat.
“I do believe there is discrimination between the rich and the poor. When you’re poor, you don’t have enough money to get out causing taxpayers a lot of money. This is a moral issue. America is not suppose to be about that…locking up people for minor offenses for days, weeks, months because they are too poor to make bail.
“A lot of the detainees have served their country, come home, are homeless, and get locked up. Others are mentally ill, but jails should not be for providing health care. We should send them to institutions rather than locking them up. It just doesn’t make sense,” Wilson said.
He added, “The politicians can correct this problem if they just vote on it. I know they say there is no money, but I disagree. They spend billions of dollars overseas in wars. Surely, we can take care of our own citizens first.”
Wilson called for a moratorium on privatization of prisons. “Last year, over $2 billion or $3 billion was the profit by private corporations owning prisons. That doesn’t make sense at all. Prisons should not be privatized. You should not be making a profit off locked up people. By the time you get some out, more are going in. That’s immoral. They are not making good wages. I think we are setting an example. I believe in giving them a second chance. I’m just trying to do good.”
Wilson is sponsoring a state bill that would prohibit the jailing of non-violent offenders on charges of misdemeanors. He also called on the federal government and Republican President-elect Donald Trump to embrace this legislation.
When the detainees go to court, he will get the money back enabling him to recycle the bond money to free even more detainees.
Using $50,000 of his own funds as seed money for the bail out program, Wilson gave the 46 detainees $200 each, and he’s now preparing a full-course meal for all 110 on Thanksgiving Day at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 West Washington, headed by Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch.
“We will also have pastors on hand as part of our human infrastructure…a safety network so they can obtain clothing, housing, jobs…counseling…things they need to turn their lives around and not return to a life of crime,” said Wilson.
The detainees are of all ethnic groups, religions or sexual preferences. “They are all human beings,” Wilson said.
Wilson is asking for support for his bail program by clicking on drwilliewilsonfoundation.org or text to give at 312.818.4975. “We need to take care of our own.”