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Who We Are

We are a policy-focused nonprofit that advocates for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal legal system.

Mission Statement

Restore Justice advocates for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal legal system, with a primary focus on those affected by extreme sentences as youth.


We create and support policies that allow those who are rehabilitated to go home, and that ensure those incarcerated, their families, and victim families have opportunities for healing and justice. We engage people who are currently and formerly incarcerated and their loved ones, victims and their families, communities, and concerned Illinoisans in advocacy and service within the criminal legal system.

our vision

Restore Justice believes every human being deserves dignity, including those who have committed serious crimes. We work toward a day when the criminal legal system in Illinois treats every case as an opportunity to heal people and communities.



All individuals are capable of dramatic change within themselves, and people united together are capable of creating dramatic change in systems and institutions. Individuals can and do change. Systems and institutions should recognize and respond to those changes.


… for all, regardless of age, income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin, or criminal history.


People matter more than any agenda or abstract success, and we strive to ensure that what we do creates real change for real communities.


Restore Justice maintains rigorous checks to ensure that our policies do not negatively impact the people we serve or prevent individuals from accessing services.


We dream big while also recognizing the dynamics of the system as it is.

History: For decades, Illinois has pursued a punishment-centered approach in its criminal legal system.

These punitive policies have funneled thousands of young people–some no older than 14 at the time of their convictions–into prison for extreme lengths of time. These laws disproportionately affect Black people and are largely responsible for over-incarceration in Illinois. While the total Illinois prison population has decreased 40% since 2014, there has been an 18% increase in the number of Black people under 21 serving life or de facto life (40+ years) sentences.

Recognition is growing across the political spectrum that the nation’s criminal legal system needs to change. We believe reducing long-term incarceration is a necessary component of a more rational approach to community safety. In our experience, most people who come home after serving long prison sentences want to be part of a solution to community violence; these people are uniquely qualified to find and implement solutions.

In 2014, Restore Justice Illinois, a 501(c)(4) civic group, emerged to tackle this challenge by directly advocating for compassionate changes to the Illinois criminal code. But lobbying and advocacy only go so far. It soon became clear that in order to move the needle, we would have to move beyond the statehouse and into the community.

Created in 2015 as a sister organization to Restore Justice Illinois, the Restore Justice Foundation focuses on the significant and growing population of individuals serving life or life-like sentences for crimes they committed as children or young adults. We develop a holistic approach to policy change for this group of people, with implications on the broader criminal legal system. We increase the impact of our policy work by finding, hiring, and training people who spent more than 20 years in prison and who want to lead social justice and policy change.

Our Impact

We have helped usher in new sentencing and prison condition policies in Illinois, while supporting people who are and were incarcerated, their family members, and communities through our programs.

Since our founding in 2015, we have helped craft and pass meaningful reforms each year, while engaging hundreds of families, people who were formerly incarcerated, and allies in support groups and advocacy activities. Through our innovative Future Leadership Apprenticeship Program (FLAP), we have hired and nurtured seven full-time apprentices who work either at Restore Justice or other organizations in our field.

some of our most significant policy accomplishments include:

Abolished Juvenile Life Without Parole

Leading the passage of legislation to prospectively abolish sentences of life without the possibility of parole for all children and most young adults in Illinois.

Created New Parole Opportunities

Advancing the Youthful Parole Law, which established the first new parole opportunities in Illinois since 1978 (when the state abolished the parole system).

Rolled Back Mandatory Minimums

Securing increased discretion for judges and freedom from some mandatory minimum sentences when sentencing children in adult court.

Created More Discretion For Children in Adult Courts

Securing increased discretion for judges and freedom from some mandatory minimum sentences when sentencing children in adult court. Narrowing Illinois’s felony-murder law so people can no longer be charged with murders committed by third parties.

Created Family Contact

Establishing a family liaison or point of contact in the Department of Corrections for family members, expanding the number of visits each person who is incarcerated can receive each month, making visitation easier for families, and ensuring video visits can not replace in-person visits.

Get to know our work in criminal legal reform and community programs

We train and support advocates, conduct research, nurture partnerships, educate policymakers, and develop policy solutions.