The administrator of a 29-year program that requires probationers to obtain their G.E.D. filed for an injunction last week to halt the City Colleges of Chicago and Olive- Harvey College from shutting the doors on the program.
The request, filed on behalf of Probation Challenge Inc., the R. Eugene Pincham Probation Challenge program, said the CCC thumbed its nose at the law when it hand-delivered a notice in February stating that as of April 30 “the program will no longer be allowed to be housed on Olive-Harvey’s campus.”
According to the Illinois Probation Challenge Act of 1981, the program must be housed on CCC grounds. “The communication was a shock to me. They told us to vacate the campus and they did not give us any alternatives.
The law clearly states that the City Colleges have the responsibility to house the program. There’s something diabolical going on here,” an incensed Rev. Harold Bailey said.
A spokeswoman for CCC said the colleges’ legal department is looking into the allegations and could not comment further. Probation Challenge is managed by Bailey, a former Cook County probation officer and former chairman of the Cook County Board of Corrections, and started during its namesake’s, the late R. Eugene Pincham, days as a judge in the criminal courts.
About 99 percent of the young men on probation had something in common, they all lacked a high school diploma. Pincham decided to address the issue by making getting a G.E.D. one of the conditions of probation. He turned his courtroom into a classroom at night, said Cliff Kelley, a close friend of the Pincham’s.
When someone is considered for probation, electronic home monitoring or parole in Cook County, and they lack a high school diploma, the court mandates they participate in Probation Challenge. Probationers must sign up for the program within 48 hours of them being put on probation, according to the program.
At least 100,000 men and women have enrolled in Probation Challenge since it began in Pincham’s courtroom in 1979, Bailey indicated. Three years after the program began, the late Mayor Harold Washington championed for it to move to Olive-Harvey College on the South Side because it was deemed a “neutral area,” Bailey said.
The campus, 10001 S. Woodlawn Ave., is outside of rival gang territories, and is the best location for participants in the program. None of the other CCC campuses provide this “gang-free” environment, he said.
“Young people that are gang affiliated have to cross rival gang turfs in order to go to school. Olive- Harvey’s campus is neutral.Young people, in the program’s 26-year history at the college, have never posed a problem on that campus,” Bailey said. Besides being a non-hostile environment, the college’s campus also provides the students with the space and equipment for other training that is offered through Probation Challenge, he said.
“We provide 10-week courses in skills training. The most popular one is multi-media.We do television, radio and Internet broadcasting from the campus. All of it is done by Probation Challenge students. And, we also offer computer training,” Bailey said. While he prefers for the program to remain at Olive-Harvey because of its gang neutrality and the technology opportunities, Bailey is open to other CCC locations.
He just hasn’t been afforded any other options. “Without a home, the program would eventually terminate,” he said, blasting Olive-Harvey for having the “audacity as an institution for education to deny education” to those who want it.
According to Bailey, the college refuses to supply G.E.D. materials for Probation Challenge students, and will not register at least 30 students who are waiting to get into the program. “What madness is this? It’s devastating and leaves no hope for the students. I will not close the door on these young folk,” he said.
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