: Policy Analyst – Cook County Jail Initiative

Job Type

Full Time




United States



Access Living is pleased to announce a brand new one-year Cook County Jail Initiative Project focused on a cross-disability look at the situation of people with disabilities in the Cook County Jail system from arrest to re-entry, and exploring how to reduce incarceration. We recognize and applaud the efforts of the many leaders and advocates who have long fought to remove barriers and disparities for those incarcerated in Cook County Jail, and our goal is to learn from, support, and amplify existing work. Because those most likely to be affected by incarceration are from marginalized groups, including but not limited to people of color, people who are LGBTQIA*, immigrants, and others, an intersectional approach and analysis is essential.

The staffer for this project, a one-year, full time Policy Analyst position, is funded by the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge, to conduct research and analysis focused on the situation of persons with disabilities in the Cook County Jail system, from arrest to release/re-entry, and with an intersectional approach. The end goal of the project will be to produce a paper documenting the current situation, and providing analysis and recommendations for improvement from a cross-disability, intersectional standpoint.

In addition, the Analyst will partner with Access Living’s existing disability/racial justice efforts as led by our Racial Justice organizer and other staff, and leverage media, public education and organizing opportunities and relationships to press for solutions to reduce the placement of people with disabilities in jails. The position will also work closely with a key partner policy organization.

The goal of the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge is to bring together leaders and organizations to end the overuse and misuse of jails, and to rethink justice systems and implement data-driven strategies to safely reduce jail populations. The Challenge furthermore seeks to reduce America's reliance on jails by developing strategies that take into account the particular needs of communities that have been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

Please note that this position relates to a specific grant, and as such, the position will not continue past the one-year term of the grant unless the grant is renewed.


  • Research, analyze, and report on how people with disabilities interact with the Cook County Jail system from arrest to re-entry, through an intersectional lens centering the experiences of those who also belong to other marginalized groups, such as people of color, LGBTQIA*, immigrants and others. 
  • Evaluate the points of contact in the process of the Cook County Jail system for people with disabilities, from initial interactions with law enforcement, to transportation and booking, to stays in the jail, and how and where they are released. 
  • Research Cook County Jail’s disability policies and procedures. 
  • Survey other counties to see what disability policies/practices are currently in place. 
  • Work with a TBD key partner who will provide necessary policy expertise with regard to the Cook County Jail system.
  • Interview individuals in the disability community with experiences in the Cook County Jail system. 
  • Build relationships with external partners with a stake in the Cook County Jail system, including but not limited to policy groups, legal watchdogs, service providers, grassroots groups and more. 
  • Visit other jails around the state and in other states.
  • Attend the MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice advisory councils and coalition meetings to get additional perspective and best practices. 
  • By the end of the grant period, the analyst will submit a white paper detailing the issues in the Cook County Jail system in regards to people with disabilities, using an intersectional lens. This white paper will offer recommendations for improvement, and, if additional funding allows begin an implementation plan for improvements. Engage in briefing elected officials and other key stakeholders on the white paper results.
  • Write for Chicago and national media venues regarding the process and findings of the project.
  • As needed, present research findings at public forums, press conferences, etc.
  • Collaborate with Access Living’s Racial Justice Organizer and other staff engaged on restorative justice, disability law and other related topics.
  • Conduct public education efforts around disability and the Cook County Jail system, including for Access Living grassroots consumers. This includes creating materials in Power Point and other formats.
  • Ensure internal accountability is met, such as data entry and quarterly reports.
  • Other duties as assigned.


Advanced degree preferred in public policy, health, social work or political science. A JD is also a plus. Must have excellent writing/research skills, including the use of infographics. Familiarity with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Olmstead Supreme Court decision. Familiarity with how structural racism, homophobia, xenophobia and other forms of oppression can affect people with disabilities.


  • 3+ years of experience in policy research and production of papers/articles for public dissemination
  • Experience interviewing subjects individually and in focus groups for the purpose of research
  • Demonstrated expertise and interest in the criminal justice system, especially as it operates in Cook County, Illinois
  • Demonstrated expertise and interest in oppression facing people with disabilities belonging to marginalized groups such as people of color, people who are LGBTQIA*, immigrants, and others
  • Preferred – understanding of Independent Living Philosophy, disability justice, complex topics in inclusion 
  • Comfort with public presentations to a variety of audiences
  • Experience conducting/writing literature reviews and writing annotated summaries of research.
  • Experience with qualitative and/or quantitative research methods and analysis, including familiarity with data analysis tools.
  • Experience providing general project support, such as activity tracking, task coordination, and document formatting.
  • Advanced proficiency in MS Office Applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.


Ability to travel within state; may need to travel out of state on occasion.




Level of Language Proficiency


Professional Level


Minimum Education Required

Master's degree

How To Apply

*Applicants should send cover letter, resume/CV, and no more than 10 pages of a writing sample preferably related to this position. Materials should be sent to Charmion Cobb, ccobb@accessliving.org . 

*People with lived experience of disability, people of color, people who are LGBTQIA*, immigrants, and others from underrepresented groups strongly encouraged to apply.