Director, Benjamin Wolf, Craig Della discussed on WBBM Programming


Craig della more and this is at issue yes this is will the outgoing legal director for the American civil liberties union operation based here in Chicago Benjamin wolf has been legal director since twenty fifteen but he says he'll stick around until a successor is found that could take awhile how would you like to follow this guy as legal director he helped negotiate the groundbreaking consent decree on police reform for Chicago he help reach a final agreement on improving health care in Illinois prisons among other things been will welcome back and thank you for being here my pleasure I'm grateful to be here well first why retire now just when things were beginning to be fun well I'd say things I've always been pretty exciting at the ACLU we we fight the battles for people's rights and and we will keep fighting them long after I'm sitting on a beach somewhere so I I thought it was a good time in terms of my age and life to to step down as legal director and let somebody else supervise our amazing lawyers well before we talk about some of the amazing things you have and then continue to do in your career how does a lawyer like you slow down do you even know how to relax I'm gonna find out it's particularly since the since the twenty sixteen election it's been a time of even more activity than we usually have so just to go back to something like forty hours a week would would feel like a vacation I think but what what what are you really just going to relax no I think I'll stay on I've been offered the opportunity to stand as a senior counsel and a part time role and I'm open to that for a few years I'd like to write an article about consent decrees and other structural injunctions because I've I've been dealing with those for decades and I think a lot of the public literature is wrong on on what those are about and particularly after former Attorney General Jeff sessions put all kinds of restrictions on the justice department's degrees I think somebody needs to take the other side and it's a good time to do that I want to go back to the wall perhaps the the case you're best known for a was the federal lawsuit from nineteen eighty eight about how children were cared for by the Illinois department of children and family services it is that the case you would like to be remembered for I'd like to be remembered for that one and for other ones where I represented powerless people but that certainly has a case that I'm very proud of although in many ways we were a victim of our own success we force the system to get much better in the late nineteen nineties and early two thousands more than forty thousand children were adopted in a safe stable homes the rate of reviews of children reported to the system went down by more than fifty percent caseloads dropped his reported they were happier we had more foster homes and then because federal courts don't really want to get involved when things are better we took our foot off the gas and starting with rob will go a virgin continuing very much servers around our the owner I system deteriorated so now we've had to go back to court again so every success as the as the seeds of future challenges when you're representing powerless people in the state what are the things that you're working with now better at DCFS because of the battles that were fought before I think so I think we we showed for one thing with the cooperation of a good administration for a while lead by Jess McDonald at DCFS a very good director that you can make it better I think some people think foster care is impossible in that when you start intervening in families that have issues of substance abuse and poverty and sometimes violence there's almost nothing you can do and we show that's not true you can help people you can you can help families stay together and you can help children get on with their lives if they can't stay with their parents but we keep always hearing the occasional story about people who missed signals and the light can is that some I'm I wonder if any system N. any kinds of reforms can keep things like that from happening I think it's impossible to keep a system in place that never makes a mistake but I think we can do it much better than we're doing it now and certainly much better than we did in the late eighties when we said in the first time man Ellen I has had one of the worst foster care systems in the country both in the eighties and perhaps now and we can do better than that and most of the time we can make good decisions if we remember these are our children the state has brought them into its custody in many cases in the name of protecting and to mistreat them after we do that is just inexcusable if I've noticed a pattern through your career it seems you've dealt a lot with Human Services is there a particular reason why you were drawn to those cases it it is not true that the ACLU and other states always grapples with those issues but in Illinois we've had a history under both parties ignoring Human Services of underfunding and collecting Human Services and the money we do procreate is often spent on the basis of clout and not need and so in Illinois I've had.

Coming up next