Charles Jones III of Englewood, Chicago, IL passed away over the Thanksgiving holiday. Jones was a celebrated youth, violence prevention, and legal, worker who made local, national and international news advocating his own story and work post-incarceration as evidence that knowing one’s rights with police and holding them accountable reduces street violence. More than anything, Charles Jones III was an extraordinarily committed family man leaving behind adoring wife, Tramaine Lewis Jones, dear adult daughter Chardae Carpenter and her daughter Mi’Yonna Barnes, and most incredibly bonded young children Anaiyah, Carlee, Charles IV, and Ayden. Their patriarch, and that of the larger movement for know your rights education in Chicago, passed away overnight of an apparent heart attack and was found by family in his living room in the morning.
Charles was born and raised in the Englewood community of the 1960’s. He was proceeded in death by his father Charles II, mother, Ernestine, and aunt, Maxine among the beloved circle of matriarchs that cared for him always. His childhood was cut short by an arrest; when held incommunicado by Burge- trained detectives until he made an incriminating statement and was convicted and imprisoned for a murder. Charles wrote and spoke extensively in public about how initially the injustice lead him to respond with aggression towards those around him. Caged as a teen from Englewood, he learned his rights and how to enforce them through engaging the law. “I felt human again,” were the words he used to express this transformation.
The quote would become the public service campaign of the first-ever broad legal aid program for police accountability he helped launch in 2019 at First Defense Legal Aid where he worked for the past 8 years. His post-incarceration calling was violence reduction through teaching at-risk youth and parents their rights with police, to stop the false confession epidemic in Chicago and provide the catharsis of civic engagement on the human rights atrocity of our time, for those most traumatically impacted by police overreach, in the process. In his deep engagement with south and west-side peace keeping efforts, Charles’ street outreach and violence interruption strategies proved successful in reducing violence and recidivism among those he worked closely with. He was featured in many news outlets over his career including the Guardian, CNN, and others where he was key to exposing Homan Square and the ongoing offense of less than 2% of people in Chicago police custody getting a lawyer.
The neighborhood, and broader south and west sides knew Charles Jones III as this leader, and for always putting his family first. Charles’ children were his everything. Everyone who knew him, knew them, as they were always near. Charles adored them and gave relentless focus and priority to their safety, health and growth as individuals and a unit. He was close with the many youth in his extended family and among those he mentored, always engaging them authentically as critical thinkers with individual talents they are expected to develop and let shine on the world. His brothers Cobey and Thaddeus and their families also survive him.
Arrangements are being determined in consideration of the pandemic. His widow asks the Chicago community he served to be there for his children. Contributions can be made directly to the Zelle account associated with Lewis31386@ gmail.com.
Family, friends and community say they are heartbroken he did not get to see justice on ending incommunicado detention in Chicago police custody in his lifetime, saying the City now owes his legacy Charles’ Law: a city ordinance requiring know-your-rights education in local schools including why and how to invoke one’s 4th, 5th and 6th amendment rights with police and the additional right that exists in Illinois to call out to communicate with lawyers and family generally within an hour of arrest.