A note from Restore Justice Program Manager Wendell Robinson:
When I came home in December 2018, I knew I wanted to be part of Restore Justice. I served 25 years in prison for something that happened when I was 17 years old. During my incarceration, I got to know Julie Anderson and Jobi Cates. After my release, I joined them in Springfield to help advocate for change. I realized this work inspires and motivates me. I wanted to make Restore Justice’s mission my life’s work; I understand what it means to be a beacon of hope for all the guys I left behind and want to fight for them.
The Future Leaders Apprenticeship Program proved to be a perfect fit. In 2019, I became Restore Justice’s first-ever apprentice. During the apprenticeship, I learned about nonprofit leadership. I shadowed Jobi, Restore Justice’s Executive Director, and met with members of Restore Justice’s Board of Directors. I planned a fundraiser to introduce people to other men who received juvenile life without parole sentences and to raise money to hire more apprentices.
After my apprenticeship term, Restore Justice hired me full time. In my current role as Program Manager, I recruit, train, and support our apprentices. In 2020, we hired Nelson Morris. Nelson returned home in August of that year after serving 29 years and three weeks in the Illinois Department of Corrections for a youthful conviction. Nelson learned about all areas of nonprofit work and developed a passion for community outreach. After his apprenticeship, he joined Restore Justice full time.
I am now honored to introduce our two newest Apprentices. Like Nelson and I, both of these men received extreme sentences in their youth. They returned home last year and immediately sought to help those they left behind. They will spend 14 weeks preparing for careers in social justice organizations. They will receive on-the-job training and academic instruction.
Meet Harold Hagerman and James Swansey.
At the age of 17, Harold received a 61-year prison sentence. While incarcerated, he earned his GED and his Associate Degree in Liberal Studies, graduating from Lake Land College with a 4.0 GPA. Harold also completed life skills and reentry programs.
Having served 28 and a half years, Harold came home in April 2020 after being awarded two years of program sentence credits (good time) for his unwavering commitment to his rehabilitation.
Upon release, Harold immediately sought gainful employment and worked in the construction and home renovation field, as well as at an assembly plant. Now, Harold is a member of the Restore Justice family.
Harold attributes his successful transition home to his determination to be a source of hope for the comrades he left behind and, also, to be a vehicle to assist people who are still incarcerated in their return trip back to their rightful place in society.
James returned home in December 2020 after serving 28 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Incarcerated in 1993 at the age of 18, James originally received a sentence of natural life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 30 years. He received a new sentence through court cases about youth sentencing; James came home earlier than planned after being granted clemency.
“As time went by, I learned how to become responsible for my actions and accountable for my decisions, which in turn allowed me to show the individual that I actually was as opposed to the monster I was painted to be,” James said. “I now have the opportunity to give back to the same system that sentenced me to die, without giving me the death penalty. Working with Restore Justice is something that I look forward to because I know that I have a voice, and I want that voice to be heard! I look forward to being a difference.” James aspires to be a voice for those who can’t be heard.
Outside of work, James is an avid sports fan. He loves spending time with family and friends, laughing, and having fun. “I know that you can not get back time lost, but you can go forward making memories that can be shared and remembered!”