The issues we work on to make Illinois safer, fairer and more compassionate
Illinois’ criminal legal system is punitive
For decades, Illinois has pursued a “tough-on-crime” approach to crafting its criminal legal and policy systems. These policies have funneled thousands of young people–some no older than fourteen or fifteen at the time of their offense–into prison for extreme lengths of time. Once imprisoned, they face inhumane conditions while being denied any meaningful avenue to rehabilitation or earned release. We work to untangle and undo the damage inflicted by these extreme policies on impacted people and their communities.
Illinois prisons are at 151% capacity
#1 in the U.S.
Significantly over capacity, Illinois prisons are #1 in the U.S. for overcrowding
Our Focus Areas
In Illinois, a number of sentencing laws converge to create a system that consistently applies extremely long prison terms. While touted as a strategy to make our justice system more fair and effective, research shows that policies like these lead to little to no reduction in crime, while contributing heavily to overcrowded prisons. Restore Justice supports policies that would eliminate or reduce mandatory minimums, roll back firearm enhancements, and otherwise change the laws that rigidly increase sentence lengths or restrict judges from applying appropriate sentences.
Prison Conditions and Practices
The human, social, and economic costs of our current prison system are intolerable. Restore Justice supports efforts to move Illinois corrections towards a model that values rehabilitation over punishment. This includes making healthcare more available for people who are incarcerated, increasing opportunities to participate in programs and education, allowing family and friends to visit their loved ones who are incarcerated more often, and reducing the use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure.
In 1978, Illinois abolished the practice of parole, or early conditional release. Then, in 1998, the state passed so-called “truth-in-sentencing” laws, which restrict the ability of many people who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentences. This means many people who enter prison in Illinois lack opportunities to work towards their release. Restore Justice supports efforts to give rehabilitated people more meaningful pathways to earn release. Currently, that means restoring Illinois to its pre-1978 parole-for-release system, rolling back “truth-in-sentencing” laws, and creating opportunities for people serving extreme sentences to have another look at their sentence.