Examining Policy with Connie Jordan

Juniors are taking a course called Policy. The first Unit, called “Legislate,” investigates the ways that policy happens through legislative bodies. For the most part, our curriculum focuses on the Federal level of the US government; in past years, our students have spent considerable time with the City of Chicago’s legislative body, the Council. This year, we were thrilled to be joined by Connie Jordan, Public Defender in Cook County (who had also visited us in February with Latoya Hughes, a State’s Attorney).

Germane to our studies in Policy, Ms. Jordan shared with us two bills her office is currently advocating at the State level with regard to criminal justice reform: one in the IL House that would do more to assure the rights of accused persons to access phone calls, and one in the IL Senate that would redefine the category of “habitual offender” to exclude accused persons under the age of 21.

We had a robust and vigorous question-and-answer session over the course of seventy minutes, our juniors asking pointed questions about racial inequalities in sentencing, the importance of civic awareness, and the challenges of protecting rights using legislation. I was really proud of how they rose to the challenge, and Ms. Jordan likewise expressed gratitude for their participation and pledged to be an assistance in their Action Projects later this term

I’m so grateful that we have this space to be studying together in this strange time. Our curriculum seems especially timely, but even more important from my perspective, I’m happy to do this work in ensemble with our students. In this unprecedented context, it seems more important than ever that we be learning through genuine inquiry.