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Cappleman's Vow To Make Woman's Life 'Uncomfortable' Upsets Uptowners

By Josh McGhee | May 31, 2016 12:40pm | Updated on June 1, 2016 10:53am
 Ald. James Cappleman talks with a group of homeless advocates earlier this year.
Ald. James Cappleman talks with a group of homeless advocates earlier this year.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Residents took offense Monday to comments by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) promising to make a possibly mentally ill woman's life so "uncomfortable" she'd be forced to accept help or move "elsewhere" after an incident on Memorial Day.

"I know this woman very well," Cappleman commented on a Neighborhood Watch group for Uptown residents. "She's been taken to treatment centers but she keeps leaving. If she refuses help, then we will make her life uncomfortable enough so that she either finally accepts help or goes elsewhere."

The incident took place Monday night after an Uptown resident got off the "L" at Wilson Station and reported seeing an intoxicated woman dancing topless in front of Snacks 4 Less at 1144 W. Wilson Ave. as dozens of onlookers filmed with their cell phones, according to a Facebook post about the incident.

Cappleman originally commented that he would see about getting her into a treatment center, but one resident called the response "a temporary fix for a much larger problem."

Cappleman responded with a much longer comment, which has been edited multiple times on the closed, private Facebook group.

Alan Mills, who is Executive Director of Uptown People's Law Center and who tweeted out a screenshot with the alderman's controversial comments early Tuesday morning, said threatening to force someone out of the neighborhoods because "he won't tolerate her behavior" is "disgusting."

"It appears to me she is a women suffering from mental illness," he said. "No one should be forcing anyone to do treatment. Harassing someone until they decide to do something is not the correct reaction to mental illness."

If someone is a danger to themselves or society, the State's Attorney's office can have them involuntarily committed, though "it's a high legal standard" to qualify for that action, Mills said.

Mills said the alderman should be "embarrassed" by his comments, considering he voted in favor of closing mental health facilities, which Mills says resulted in more mentally ill people ending up on the street or in jail.

"Arrest is not the right answer. Criminalization of the mentally ill is not the right answer... Increasing social services is what should be happening," Mills said.

After one reader posted Cappleman's comments to Neighborhood Square, commenters continued to be split on whether the alderman's response was appropriate.

"There is too much unknown about this situation to take any action," one user said. Another called Cappleman's remarks "a new low and utterly unethical at best."

Tuesday morning, Cappleman said he's known the woman for years, even before he was an alderman, and said he contacted the Sheriff's Office to develop a plan "that provides her with the services she needs."

The woman has been arrested over 400 times, Cappleman said. After a recent arrest for pulling a knife on an EMT, she was given three months probation and released, according to the alderman, who did not disclose her name.

"My frustration comes from when she was released," Cappleman told DNAinfo Tuesday. "She had no money, no place to live and no support system. We set her up for failure."

Monday night, he says he witnessed the incident where the woman was topless, and told her "to cover herself up" after watching families with strollers turn away from the scene. 

"My goal is to her the help that she needs... That's my focus," he said.

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