BrownTown kicks back with Tia Haywood and Jesús Vargas of the Haywood Monte Law Offices to discuss the role of the legal system, public opinion, and grassroots activism in holding the criminal justice system accountable while working within its very framework. The gang examines recent Chicago cases and breaks down how narratives and precedents can shape the path for future equity, for better or for worse. Originally recorded February 18, 2019.
Tia Haywood, born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, is the Managing Attorney and Solo-Practitioner of Haywood Monte Law Offices and consultant to Shiller Preyar Law Offices mainly specializing in immigration, civil rights, and criminal defense. She graduated from Howard University (undergraduate), Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and Comillas Pontificia Universidad (Masters of Law). Tia has volunteered with Centro Sin Fronteras as a Lead Attorney, First Defense Legal Aid, Chicago Community Bond Fund, and countless other groups.
Jesús Vargas, raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, is a 21-year-old paralegal at Haywood Monte Law Offices, who has previously volunteered with ALSO (Alliance of Local Service Organizations) and CeaseFire. From a young age, he was active in the community, attending and participating in numerous marches and protests dealing with criminal justice reform and immigration.
The American political climate has been largely and saliently polarized with the Trump administration’s legal decisions and executive orders while Chicago has also been highly visible for legal controversy in the Jason Van Dyke trial and the proceedings and activism surrounding it. Tia and Jesús help BrownTown better understand the ins and outs of the criminal justice system and immigration law through their roles in the very legal institutions that govern us. They start by discussing the Coalition to Dump Matt Coghlan, a campaign that successfully unseated the problematic Cook County judge in November 2018 (see SoapBox Dump Coghlan PSA). Tia and Jesús harp on the importance of court watching and attending public meetings to gather first-hand information about criminal justice operatives (lawyers, judges, etc.) and elected officials that continuously make real decisions that effect so many lives. Tia dives into the world of immigration law and immigration rights, making it known that immigration courts are all too similar to criminal courts yet without certain protections. As the group dives into the particulars of systematic procedures, BrownTown and Jesús discuss how dominant, problematic narratives sway how criminal justice operatives can and will apply laws and precedents selectively (see Brock Turner vs. Meek Mill). In regards to the unpoliticized or those, at-the-moment, unscathed by problematic laws and/or enforcement of such, Tia eludes that these forces don’t effect you…until they effect you, adding that by the time you need support and resources for a situation you never thought you would be in, it’s too late to act (see “First They Came” poem).
The gang digresses into the Jason Van Dyke trial and the other developments surrounding it: Kwame Raoul’s review of the sentencing, the Chicago Police Department code of silence case, and, of course, #NoCopAcademy. Considering it all, BrownTown grapples with what true justice for Laquan McDonald looks like in practice and in policy. Beyond the bureaucracy itself, through personal narratives and stories of both the most and least marginalized, how do we use law and bureaucratic institutions to challenge the root causes of systemic issues? With a broken and complicated system, how do we not only imagine a different world but practically work towards it? Here’s BrownTown's take.
Read related SoapBox article "Chicago at a Crossroads"
Visit Tia and Jesús at the Haywood Monte Law Offices at the Westside Justice Center!
CREDITS: Intro/outro song Winter in America by Gil Scott Heron. Audio engineered by Genta Tamashiro.
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