25 May Restore Justice Spring/Summer 2022 Newsletter
The Illinois General Assembly wrapped up the regular spring session on April 9, earlier than its usual May 31 end date. This was a unique election-year legislative session. The primary is usually held in March but was pushed back to June 28 because the Census data used to redraw the state legislative maps every 10 years was not finalized until late last year. Elected officials wanted additional time to campaign in their districts. A surge in COVID-19 cases earlier this year also contributed to the shorter-than-usual legislative session.
In the shortened session, crime became one of the top issues. Concerns over perceived increases in carjacking, highway shootings, and retail burglaries at high-end stores dominated the conversation about criminal legal reform. As a result, Restore Justice played a lot of defense this session. We worked with our allies and Advocacy Team members to stop many punitive bills that would have created new criminal penalties. We advocated for legislators to instead invest in proven community-based strategies to prevent violence. The General Assembly is now adjourned until the fall Veto Session begins in November.
In the newsletter below, we include a recap of how you and/or your loved ones can get involved, an overview of how a bill becomes a law, updates on bills that may interest you, summaries of recent Illinois Supreme Court decisions, answers to some of your frequently asked questions, and updates from our team.
HOW YOU AND/OR YOUR LOVED ONES CAN GET INVOLVED
Ask your family and friends to join our Advocacy Team. Our Advocacy Team receives weekly updates during the spring legislative session and meets via Zoom on Friday mornings. Our Team members are asked to contact their state legislators to support the legislation we are working on. This has proven to be highly effective because lawmakers appreciate hearing directly from their constituents. We hope all of your family and friends will join. They can join the “team” and find more information by visiting our website at: restorejustice.org and clicking on “Join Our Advocacy Team.”
Encourage your loved ones to share concerns with IDOC’s Family Liaison and Constituent Services. Natalie Mason serves as a liaison between IDOC and the families of incarcerated individuals. SB3180, detailed below, would require IDOC to publish a public report beginning on January 1, 2023. The report would include correspondence, but is not limited to, information about the following subjects: commissary; COVID protocols and mitigations; mail, video, electronic messages, or other communications with people who are incarcerated; institution or facility; discipline; earned sentencing credits; educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated; health and mental health; personal property; records of people who are incarcerated; staffing, transfers, visitation; work opportunities for people who are incarcerated. The IDOC family liaison annual report would include a summary of activities and recommendations.
IDOC would collect and report the following data and descriptions for each institution and facility: the work of the family liaison; the general nature of suggestions, complaints, and other requests submitted to the family liaison; the volume of emails, calls, letters, or correspondence received by the family liaison; the resolutions reached or recommendations made as a result of the family liaison’s review; whether, if an investigation is recommended, a report of the complaint was forwarded to the Chief Inspector of the Department or other Department employee, and the resolution of the complaint, and if the investigation has not concluded, a detailed status report on the complaint; and any recommendations that the family liaison has relating to systemic issues in IDOC and any other matters for consideration by the General Assembly and Governor.
Please let us know if you have had any interactions with Ms. Mason’s office. We are collecting information about interactions with the office so we can be useful in making it work for families. Your loved ones can reach Ms. Mason by emailing DOC.Constituent.Services@illinois.gov or calling 217-558-2200 ext. 6226. If they do reach out to Ms. Mason, please let Restore Justice know about their experience by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW IN ILLINOIS
The Illinois General Assembly, which includes the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives, usually convenes in Springfield during two periods each year.
The first period is known as the “regular session” and takes place from January through May. Generally, bills considered during the regular session need only a simple majority vote to pass. That means it takes 30 votes in the state Senate and 60 votes in the state House for a bill to pass. Most legislators try to get their bills passed during this time.
The second period or “veto session” happens for two weeks in or around October and November. Usually, the first order of business during the veto session is addressing the bills the Governor vetoed during the summer. However, the House and Senate can, and often do, take up new items. It is harder to pass a bill with an immediate effective date during the veto session because it requires a supermajority vote to pass in each chamber; that is 36 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House.
Bills can originate in either chamber (Senate or House). If a state senator introduces a bill in the Senate and it passes, it goes to the House. If a state representative introduces a bill in the House and it passes, it then goes to the Senate. Along the way, a bill is considered in each chamber by a committee that invites expert witnesses to hearings and reviews relevant research.
Once a bill passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor. The Governor then has four options: sign the bill into law; do nothing, in which case the bill automatically becomes a law after a certain period; reject the bill entirely (this is a “veto”); or issue an “amendatory veto” to suggest a small change to the bill. If the Governor vetoes a bill or does an amendatory veto, legislators can reconsider the bill during the veto session.
Restore Justice’s main 2022 legislative initiatives
The following initiative passed the General Assembly and will be sent to the Governor to be signed into law:
SB3180, House Floor Amendment 2 (Sen. Laura Fine/Rep. Robyn Gabel): SB3180 would require IDOC to publish an annual public report on issues being raised by visitors to institutions of the Department and by other members of the public. This report would be published on the IDOC website and summarize the correspondence received by the constituency services department and any resolutions or recommendations made. SB3180 would provide data to allow the legislature to identify significant problems and address them with future policymaking. This bill passed the Senate and House and is currently pending approval by the Governor.
Visitors can reach the IDOC Constituent Services Department at DOC.Constituent.Services@illinois.gov.
The following seven initiatives did not pass through the General Assembly; Restore Justice will continue working on them in 2022:
HB1064, House Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Rita Mayfield/Sen. Pres. Don Harmon): HB1064 would abolish life without parole for most people 20 and younger in Illinois, which would bring Illinois into line with the majority of states. Right now, 25 states prohibit life without parole sentences for people younger than 18. In six other states, no one is serving these sentences. HB1064 would build on 2019’s Youthful Parole Law, which created the first new parole opportunities in Illinois since the state abolished discretionary parole in 1978. HB1064 would create an opportunity for people younger than 21, when convicted of first-degree murder or sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment, to be eligible for parole review; people with these specific convictions or sentences did not receive parole consideration under the Youthful Parole Law. People could petition the Prisoner Review Board for parole consideration after serving 40 years or more. The legislation would not be retroactive. This bill passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate.
HB2989 House Floor Amendments 2, 3, and 4 (Rep. La Shawn Ford/Sen. Mike Simmons): This would expand the Youth Firearm Sentencing Law to those 20 and under at the time of the crime. Right now, Illinois law mandates judges add 15 years to life to the sentences of people 18 and older who commit certain crimes with firearms. Fifteen years are added if a firearm is possessed but not discharged, 20 years are added if the gun is personally discharged with no injuries, and 25 years to life are added if there is a death or grievous injury.
The Youth Firearm Sentencing Law gave judges the authority to decide whether enhancements make sense on a case-by-case basis for people 17 and younger. Judges can choose not to apply enhancements to the sentences of people younger than 18. HB2989 would apply that framework to people ages 18 to 20. Judges would be required to consider: 1) The person’s age, impetuosity, and level of maturity at the time of the offense, including the ability to consider risks and consequences of behavior, and the presence of cognitive and/or developmental disability, if any; 2) whether the person was subjected to outside pressure, including peer pressure, familial pressure, or negative influences; 3) the person’s family, home environment, educational and social background, including any history of parental neglect, physical abuse, or other childhood trauma; 4) the person’s potential for rehabilitation and/or evidence of rehabilitation; 5) the circumstances of the offense; 6) the person’s degree of participation and specific role in the offense, including the level of planning by the defendant before the offense; 7) whether the person was able to meaningfully participate in their defense; 8) the person’s prior juvenile or criminal history; and 9) any other information the court finds relevant and reliable, including an expression of remorse, if appropriate. However, if the person chooses not to make a statement on the advice of counsel, the court shall not consider a lack of an expression of remorse as an aggravating factor. This bill is pending in the House.
HB3564 (Rep. La Shawn Ford/Sen. Robert Peters): This would create the Anthony Gay Law, also known as the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. This bill would limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, jails, and immigration facilities by requiring:
- Everyone is allowed out of their cells at least four hours a day.
- If someone needs to be kept in a cell for more than 20 hours a day, that can only last 10 days out of any 180-day period.
- IDOC to post online quarterly reports on the use of isolated confinement.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization have condemned the use of solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Under international standards, more than 15 days in solitary is considered torture. Yet, there are no limits on how long a person can be held in solitary confinement in Illinois. A growing body of medical literature establishes that solitary can cause permanent damage to people’s brains and that virtually everyone who spends extended time in solitary suffers severe, and often long-term, adverse impacts on their mental and physical health. This bill passed through the House and is pending in the Senate. This initiative is led by Anthony Gay and advised by multiple organizations, including Restore Justice and the Uptown People’s Law Center.
HB4565 (Rep. Maurice West): This would make mandatory minimums discretionary for youth who are 18 and younger at the time of the offense. HB4564 would give judges the authority to decide appropriate sentences on a case-by-case basis and apply additional years to a sentence if appropriate. This bill is pending in the House.
SB2123/HB3594 (Sen. Robert Peters/Rep. Justin Slaughter): The Restorative Sentencing Act would allow people sentenced under truth in sentencing (before 1998) laws to receive up to five years of sentence credit for participation in programs. People serving a term of natural life would not be eligible for sentencing credit. During this session, this bill did not move in either chamber.
SB2363 (Sen. John Connor): This would create an offense of accountability, so a person could only be charged if they intend to facilitate or encourage the crime. Right now, under Illinois law, accountability is a theory that allows prosecutors to hold someone responsible for another person’s conduct; someone can be held responsible for a crime even if they did not plan it or participate in it. SB2363 would also ensure a person’s sentence reflects their level of involvement in the crime. It sets a series of sentencing guidelines. This bill is pending in the Senate.
SB2376 (Sen. John Connor): This bill would require prosecutors to specify when a person is convicted of an offense under the theory of accountability (under the Parties to Crime Article of the Criminal Code of 2012). SB2376 would also ensure that when a person is convicted through the theory of accountability, the court shall not impose a mandatory minimum sentence for the offense. This bill would ensure a person convicted under accountability could also receive a sentence of one-half the maximum sentence that may be imposed for the underlying offense. This bill is pending in the Senate.
Bills of interest
Bills of interest that passed through both chambers of the Legislature during the regular session
HB1091, Senate Floor Amendment 4 (Rep. Kambium Buckner/Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton): This would create the offense of organized retail crime (class 2 and 3 felonies). It would create the Organized Retail Crime Enforcement Fund in the State treasury and provide that, subject to appropriation, moneys in the Organized Retail Crime Enforcement Fund should be used by the Office of the Attorney General to award grants to state’s attorneys’ offices and law enforcement agencies to investigate, indict, and prosecute violations of organized retail crime. This would provide that a retail mercantile establishment that is a victim of a violation of retail theft, organized retail crime, financial institution fraud or related offenses, or looting shall have certain rights. This bill passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law by the Governor. It is effective on 5/13/22; some provisions are effective on 1/1/23.
HB3465 (Rep. Camille Lilly/Sen. Napoleon Harris, III): This bill would provide that each institution or facility of the IDOC shall hire a reentry specialist to assist with the reentry of returning citizens into the community. This bill passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law by the Governor. It is effective on 1/1/23.
HB3893, Senate Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez/Sen. Patrick Joyce): This would extend the sunset date to allow investigators to continue recording conversations for qualified sex or drug offenses from January 1, 2023, until January 1, 2027, as well as extend the sunset date on RICO sections of the criminal code from June 11, 2022, to June 11, 2023. This bill passed the Senate and House and is currently pending approval by the Governor.
HB4559, House Committee Amendment 1 (Rep. Will Guzzardi/Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas): This bill would provide that a person who is incarcerated may request a summary of their master record file once per year, and their attorney may request one summary of the person’s master file once a year. It would provide that the IDOC shall create a form for requesting this summary and shall make that form available to incarcerated persons and to the public on its website. Upon receipt of the request form, the Department would have to provide the summary within 15 days. The bill would provide that the summary must contain, unless otherwise prohibited by law: (1) the person’s name, ethnic, racial, and other identifying information; (2) all digitally available information from the committing court; (3) all information in the Offender 360 system on the person’s criminal history; (4) the person’s complete assignment history in the Department of Corrections; (5) the person’s disciplinary card; (6) additional records about up to 3 specific disciplinary incidents as identified by the requester; (7) any available records about up to 5 specific grievances filed by the person, as identified by the requester; and (8) the records of all grievances filed on or after January 1, 2023. Provides that an incarcerated person’s master record file is not subject to disclosure and copying under the Freedom of Information Act. This bill passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law by the Governor. It is effective on 1/1/23.
HB4736, Senate Floor Amendment 3 (Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth/Sen. Sen. Robert Peters): This would create the Crime Reduction Task Force to develop and propose policies and procedures to reduce crime in Illinois. It would provide that, subject to appropriation; the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority would establish a grant program for organizations and units of local government for the purposes of providing a tip hotline or other system for crime victims and witnesses that: (1) allows the callers or participants to remain anonymous; and (2) provides cash rewards for tips that lead to arrest. This bill passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law by the Governor. It is effective on 5/10/22.
HB5525, House Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Delia Ramirez/Sen. Mike Simmons): This bill would create the Commission on Children of Incarcerated Parents, within the Department of Human Services, which would be required to reflect the diversity of the State of Illinois, including geographic, racial, and ethnic diversity, as well as the diversity of life experience. This bill would provide that the Commission shall be responsible for implementing and coordinating the recommendations of the Task Force on Children of Incarcerated Parents. In addition, it would require the Commission to: (1) meet at least four times per year, beginning within 30 days after the appointment of a quorum of its members; (2) identify resources, strategies, and legislative proposals to support the full administration and implementation of the Task Force on Children of Incarcerated Parents recommendations; (3) develop a strategic plan that outlines specific goals, information-gathering activities, benchmarks, and timelines towards achieving the purpose of the Commission to fully implement the recommendation of the Task Force on Children of Incarcerated Parents; and (4) deliver an annual report to the General Assembly and to the Governor to be posted on the Governor’s and General Assembly’s websites and provide to the public an annual report on its progress. HB5525 would provide that a draft of the report shall be released for public comment and feedback and shall be solicited from relevant stakeholders, including people impacted by parental incarceration, law enforcement, and advocates from local governmental family services agencies and non-profit service providers. This bill passed the Senate and House and has been signed into law by the Governor. It is effective on 5/13/22.
Bills of interest that did not pass through both chambers of the Legislature but may be considered with the same bill numbers through 2022
HB111, House Floor Amendment 2: This measure would raise the age at which a person charged with a misdemeanor offense can be tried as an adult. It would change the age from 18 to 19. This passed through the House but not the Senate. This initiative is led by the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
HB803 (Rep. Will Guzzardi): This bill would provide that the decision to parole and the conditions of parole for all prisoners who were sentenced for first-degree murder or who received a minimum sentence of 20 years or more under the law in effect before February 1, 1978, shall be determined by a majority vote of the members of the Prisoner Review Board present and voting at the hearing in which the determination is made (rather than a majority vote of the Prisoner Review Board). This bill would provide that within 15 days after the parole interview, the state’s attorney shall provide the attorney for the person eligible for parole with a copy of his or her letter in opposition to parole via certified mail. It would provide that each party may respond to the other’s written submissions made at the parole hearing within five business days of the en banc hearing. It would provide that the Prisoner Review Board may, after denying parole, schedule a rehearing no later than 2 (rather than 5) years from the date of the parole denial if the Board finds that it is not reasonable to expect that parole would be granted at a hearing before the scheduled rehearing date. This bill is pending in the House but has not passed the Senate.
HB1100, House Floor Amendments 2, 4 (Rep. Eva Dina Delgado/Sen. Pres. Don Harmon): This bill would provide that, subject to appropriation, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority shall establish a program by which grants are administered to prevent predatory vehicular hijacking. It would create the offense of predatory vehicular hijacking, a Class 1 felony that would be defined as an adult “commanding or coercing” a youth to commit a vehicular hijacking offense. It would repeal the offense on January 1, 2026. It would also amend the Crime Victims Compensation Act. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB2399/SB2333 (Rep. Carol Ammons/Sen. Celina Villanueva): The Earned Reentry bill would give people with long-term sentences, including natural life, the opportunity for regular review by the Prisoner Review Board. During the first three years of implementation, people older than 50 would be prioritized for parole. It would ensure every incarcerated person receives a parole review after serving 20 years. It would provide that if an incarcerated person is released on earned discretionary reentry, their sentence shall be considered complete after the term of mandatory supervised release. It would apply retroactively. This initiative is led by Parole Illinois. This did not pass through either chamber.
HB3447 (Rep. Ammons/Sen. Bush): This would lead to more expungement of criminal records for low-level drug offenses. In addition, people convicted of a crime for which the penalty has been reduced would be able to seek resentencing in accordance with the new statutory penalty. This passed through the House and is pending in the Senate. This initiative is led by the ACLU of Illinois.
HB3613, House Committee Amendment 1 (Rep. Justin Slaughter): This would provide an opportunity for parole for people who are 55 years of age and older and have served 25 years. This bill is pending in the House. This initiative is led by Citizens for Parole.
HB3659, House Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy/Rep. Robert Peters): This would include time served in a county jail as part of the minimum of 60 days of the sentence that must be served before the Director of Corrections may award discretionary earned sentence credit. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB3738, House Floor Amendment 5 (Rep. Suzanne Ness/Sen. Cristina Castro): This would create the End Youth Solitary Confinement Act. It would provide that the use of room confinement of a person under 21 years of age at a juvenile or correctional facility for discipline, punishment, retaliation, or any reason other than as a temporary response to a juvenile’s behavior that poses a serious and immediate risk of physical harm to any individual, including the juvenile, is prohibited. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB3767 (Rep. Robyn Gabel/Sen. Robert Peters): This bill would limit juvenile detention to cases of teenagers who present a serious threat to the physical safety of a person(s) in the community or to secure minor’s presence in court based on a record of willful failure to appear. It would raise the age at which a child can be detained. Right now, children 9 and younger cannot be detained, and HB3767 would raise that to 12 by 2023. (Currently, children 10 and older can be detained. This bill would change that to children 13 and older.) This passed through the House and is pending in the Senate. This initiative is led by the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
HB3958 House Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Slaughter): This bill would prevent any oral, written, or sign language statement by a person accused of a crime made as a result of a custodial interrogation conducted at a police station or other place of detention from being admissible as evidence in felony criminal proceedings unless an electronic recording is made. This bill has not passed the House or the Senate.
HB4164, Senate Committee Amendment 2 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy/Sen. Mike Simmons): This would provide that the Governor shall visit the institutions, facilities, and programs of the Department of Corrections as often as the Governor deems fit for the purpose of enquiring (rather than examining) into the affairs and conditions of the Department. It would provide that a member of the General Assembly may visit the institutions, facilities, and programs of the IDOC, and may visit any individual or group of individuals who are incarcerated at any Department institution or facility, upon the request of the member to the Department. Members would inquire into the affairs and conditions of the Department and the well-being of the people who are incarcerated. The member of the General Assembly would be required to provide at least 24-hour prior notification to the Department of the request to visit unless the circumstances of the request represent a documented health or safety emergency. The Department would be able to delay a request based on health or safety concerns, including, but not limited to, a facility lockdown, riot, medical quarantine, pandemic, documented security threat concern, or serious health concern as documented by the Medical Director. The Department would have to provide the explanation for the delay of the request in writing to the member of the General Assembly within 12 hours of the request. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB4190 (Rep. Dan Caulkins): This bill would create the Firearm Crime Charging and Sentencing Accountability and Transparency Act. It would provide that in a criminal case, if a defendant is charged with an offense involving the illegal use or possession of a firearm and subsequently enters into a plea agreement in which the charge would be reduced to a lesser offense or a non-weapons offense in exchange for a plea of guilty, at or before the time of sentencing, the State’s Attorney would file with the court a written statement of his or her reasons in support of the plea agreement, which would specifically state why the offense or offenses of conviction resulting from the plea agreement do not include the originally charged weapons offense. It would provide that in a criminal case in which the original charge is or was for an offense involving the illegal use or possession of a firearm, if a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of the original charge or lesser offense or a non-weapons offense, in imposing sentence, the judge would set forth in a written sentencing order his or her reasons for imposing the sentence or accepting the plea agreement. This bill is pending in the House, has not been introduced in the Senate, and is not likely to move during this General Assembly.
HB4218, House Committee Amendment 1 (Rep. Barbara Hernandez/Sen. Celina Villanueva): This would provide that menstrual hygiene products shall be available, as needed, free of charge, at all institutions and facilities of the IDOC for people who are incarcerated and menstruate. Also, it would provide that underwear shall be provided to each person who is incarcerated free of charge and would be provided at any time upon request, including multiple requests, as needed by the person who is incarcerated. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB4364, Senate Floor Amendment 1, 2 (Rep. Curtis J. Tarver, II/Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel): This would create the Mental Health and Substance Use Prevention Fund as a special fund in the State treasury. It would provide that the Department of Human Services must make grants from appropriations made from the Fund to units of local government and Illinois public universities for the purposes of providing mental health and substance abuse prevention to people who are incarcerated and providing mental health and substance abuse prevention for those encountering the criminal legal system with a primary focus on people who are incarcerated in the county jail or recently discharged. This bill passed the House and Senate and is pending a concurrence vote on the Senate amendment in the House.
HB4847, House Floor Amendment 1 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy/Sen. Melinda Bush): This would provide that a person is not accountable for the conduct of another if he or she was subjected to specific and credible coercion, compulsion, duress, or threats. It would provide that no offense is excepted from the provision that a person is not guilty of an offense by reason of conduct that he or she performs under the compulsion of threat or menace of the imminent infliction of death or great bodily harm, if he or she reasonably believes death or great bodily harm will be inflicted upon him or her, or upon his or her spouse or child, if he or she does not perform that conduct. This bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
HB5021 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy): This bill would provide that the Prisoner Review Board shall create a process by which a person who is incarcerated may submit an application to be declared a survivor of gender-based violence. It would provide that an application to be declared a survivor of gender-based violence may be filed with the Prisoner Review Board. It would provide that application materials shall be maintained on the Prisoner Review Board’s website and maintained in a clearly visible place within the law library and the infirmary of every correctional institution or facility operated by the Department of Corrections. It would provide that within 90 days after the receipt of the application, the Prisoner Review Board shall conduct a hearing if a hearing is requested and render a decision granting or denying the application. It would provide that the Prisoner Review Board shall create an enumerated list of factors for determination of the applicant’s qualification as a survivor of gender-based violence. It would provide that these factors shall be made publicly available. It would provide that petitions to be declared a survivor of gender-based violence shall be considered by 3-member panels, and decisions shall be made by simple majority vote of the panel. It would provide that applicants receiving a declaration shall be eligible for parole consideration by the Prisoner Review Board. It would provide that the hearings shall be conducted in accordance with the Open Parole Hearings Act. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5058 (Rep. Martin Moylan): This would create a new class 4 felony crime for knowingly removing or “tampering with” an electronic monitoring device, which could be charged instead of or in addition to the existing crime of escape. Under current law, people can already be summarily reincarcerated for the conduct described in this bill. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5072 (Rep. Natalie Manley): This bill would provide that public indecency also includes committing the proscribed acts while confined in a penal institution. It would exclude from the definition of “penal institution” for this purpose a facility of the Department of Juvenile Justice or a juvenile detention facility. It would amend the Sex Offender Registration Act and would include in the definition of “sex offense” a second violation or attempted violation of public indecency while confined in a penal institution committed on or after the effective date of the amendatory Act. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5126 (Rep. Jim Durkin): This bill would provide that at least five members of the Prisoner Review Board shall have experience in the law enforcement profession as law enforcement officers or prosecutors. It would provide that the decision to parole and the conditions of parole for all prisoners who were sentenced for first-degree murder shall be determined by at least a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Prisoner Review Board. It would provide that at the parole hearing one representative of the person under consideration for parole designated by that person or his or her legal representative may present oral testimony in support of parole, one representative of law enforcement from the county of conviction designated by the State’s Attorney of that county may present oral testimony concerning the impact of parole on public safety and the community, and one family member of each victim of the crime committed by the person under consideration for parole may present oral testimony of the impact the person under consideration for parole has made on his or her life and his or her family’s lives. It would provide that a person intending to present oral testimony at the parole hearing shall give the Board at least seven days notice before the hearing. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5455 (Rep. Theresa Mah): This would create the Faith Behind Bars Act. It would provide that a person incarcerated in a correctional institution or facility has a constitutional right to practice his or her faith in the correctional institution or facility absent harm and without undue burden to the State’s correctional system. It would provide that a person belonging to a faith group in a correctional institution or facility shall have access to pastoral and spiritual care absent harm and without undue burden to the State’s correctional system. It would provide that a correctional institution or facility shall provide reading materials for diverse faith groups, including, but not limited to, spiritual and religious texts, prayer manuals, prayer mats, and other requested material from persons who are incarcerated. It would provide that all correctional institutions and facilities in the State shall provide persons who are incarcerated the ability to pray by facilitating time and clean location, fast by allowing a person who is incarcerated to abstain from food when appropriate, and respect for dietary restrictions absent harm and without undue burden to the State’s correctional system. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5473 (Rep. Justin Slaughter): This bill would create the Second Chance Seat in Every Class Act. It would provide that each institution of higher education shall reserve at least one enrollment in each class for a returning resident (a person who is a resident of and domiciled in Illinois, has graduated from high school or the equivalent, has been convicted of a felony by a court sitting in Illinois, was sentenced to incarceration pursuant to that conviction, and is not currently incarcerated) and at least one enrollment in each online class for an incarcerated individual. It would provide computer equipment, internet connections, books, and supplies for enrolled people who are incarcerated. It would create the Incarcerated Individuals and Returning Residents Educational Supply Fund as a fund of the Department of Returning Resident Affairs. It would provide that monies in the Fund shall be used exclusively to pay for costs that people who are incarcerated and returning residents incur for books or other supplies needed to take classes under the Act. It would provide that any concession or similar agreement between a public institution of higher education and the operator of a bookstore or similar operation at that public institution of higher education shall include a provision requiring the operator of the bookstore or similar operation to pay 1% of its gross revenues from the operation of that bookstore or similar operation to the Fund. It would create the Second Chance State College Admissions Act. It would provide that no institution of higher education shall consider criminal history information when making any decision about an applicant or student, inquire about or consider criminal history information at any time during the admission decision-making process, or place an applicant or student on probationary or similar status based upon criminal history information, with specified exceptions. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5529 (Rep. Justin Slaughter): This would change the name of the offense of unlawful use of weapons to unlawful possession of weapons. The changes would ensure statute titles accurately reflect the offense described. This change would also standardize offense titles across different sections, which sometimes include reference to “possession” and sometimes do not. It would make similar changes to the names of aggravated unlawful use of weapons, unlawful use or possession of weapons by felons or persons in the custody of IDOC facilities, unlawful use of firearm projectiles, and unlawful use of a firearm in the shape of a wireless telephone. This bill is pending in the House.
HB5530 (Rep. Justin Slaughter): This bill would expand eligible probation offenses for individuals aged 26 or younger and provide guidance in the sentencing statute to consider the developmental appropriateness of the sentence and apply great weight to factors of youthfulness. This bill is pending in the House.
HR598 (Rep. Patrick Windhorst): This bill would urge the Illinois General Assembly to repeal House Bill 3653, the SAFE-T Act, in its entirety. This resolution is pending in the House.
SB649 (Sen. Robert Peters): This bill would provide that the wages paid to a person for work as a person who is incarcerated in the IDOC or the Department of Juvenile Justice, either in the correctional industries program, on work release, or in a work training program, shall not be less than the State minimum wage. It would provide that the respective Department shall charge businesses reasonable hourly rates for meals and the housing of people who are incarcerated and on work release, if applicable. This bill is pending in the Senate.
SB828 House Floor Amendment 3, 4 (Sen. Mike Simmons/Rep. La Shawn Ford): This would provide that a person convicted of a felony or otherwise under sentence in a correctional institution or jail shall have his or her right to vote restored and shall be eligible to vote. It would provide that a correctional institution shall make available to a person in its custody resource materials current to an election, which are requested by that person in its custody and received at the correctional institution from a local election authority in response to that person’s request. In provisions concerning temporary branch polling places at county jails, it would provide that a voter entitled to vote in another county, other than the county in which the jail is located, shall only be allowed to vote by mail. It would create the Post-Conviction Task Force to strengthen and improve provisions that restore the right to vote for a person convicted of a felony or otherwise under sentence in a correctional institution or jail. This bill passed the Senate and is pending in the House. It will need to return to the Senate for a concurrence vote on the House amendments.
SB2364, House Floor Amendment 1 (Sen. Pres. Don Harmon/Rep. Justin Slaughter): This bill would provide that the Pretrial Practices Data Oversight Board shall start collection of quarterly, county-level data on specified topics on July 1, 2023. It would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. It would provide that a law enforcement officer shall issue a citation in lieu of custodial arrest, upon proper identification, for a person accused of a traffic offense, a Class B misdemeanor, a Class C misdemeanor, a petty offense, or a business offense, unless the law enforcement officer, in the law enforcement officer’s discretion, reasonably determines the accused: (1) poses a specific, real, and present threat to the safety of the community or any person or persons; or (2) has a medical or mental health issue that poses a risk to the safety of the accused. It would amend the Pretrial Services Act. It would remove language requiring pretrial services agencies to submit findings and recommendations to assess the need or financial security to assure the defendant’s appearance at later proceedings. It would amend the Unified Code of Corrections. It would provide that language concerning the imposition of a mandatory supervised release term for a Class 3, or Class 4 felony takes effect on March 1, 2023 (instead of July 1, 2022). It would create the Commission on Pretrial Implementation within the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, set membership of the Commission, and provide reporting requirements. In provisions concerning electronic monitoring and home detention, it would require that a person ordered to pretrial home confinement must be provided with movement spread out over no fewer than two periods (instead of 2 days) per week. It would provide that the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council shall provide administrative support to the Commission. It would provide that the periods of time shall be determined by the supervising authority and would authorize the supervising authority to monitor the participant’s location during any period of authorized movement. It would provide that if a person on pretrial home confinement is charged with a forcible felony, the State may file a verified motion to deny the participant movement. It would require the court to hold a hearing and provide that the court shall grant the motion only if the court finds clear and convincing evidence that movement should be denied based on the totality of the circumstances. This bill passed the Senate and House and is pending in the Senate for a concurrence vote on the House amendment, which means it is positioned to possibly move during Veto Session in November.
SB2391 (Sen. Julie Morrison): This bill would provide that a person commits aggravated assault when, in committing an assault, they know the person assaulted to be a judge of election: (i) performing their official duties; (ii) assaulted to prevent performance of their official duties; or (iii) assaulted in retaliation for performing their official duties. It would provide that the penalty is a Class 4 felony. It would provide that a person commits aggravated battery when, in committing a battery, other than by discharge of a firearm, they know the individual battered to be a judge of election: (i) performing their official duties; (ii) battered to prevent performance of their official duties; or (iii) battered in retaliation for performing their official duties. It would provide that the penalty is a Class 3 felony. This bill is pending in the Senate.
SB3095 (Rep. John Connor): This would provide that if a person is convicted of aggravated driving under the influence on the basis of being involved in an accident that proximately caused the death of a parent or parents of a child or children, the person shall be ordered by the court to pay child support to the child or children. This would include provisions governing the amount and duration of the support obligation, enforcement, and collection. This bill is pending in the Senate.
These are summaries created to the best of our abilities and are for your information only. You or your attorney are ultimately responsible for reading the cases and making arguments accordingly.
Illinois Supreme Court
People v. Jones, 2021 IL 126432: Jones was 16 when he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years pursuant to a fully negotiated plea agreement. Jones argued in a post-conviction petition that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment protections in Miller. His Miller argument failed because his sentence was not mandatory, and because he voluntarily negotiated a plea agreement and agreed to its terms. Further, Jones did not have a life sentence as he could be released from prison at the age of 66. The lower court denied his petition and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding Jones failed to make a claim under Miller.
Illinois Appellate Courts
People v. Broomfield, 2022 IL App (4th) 200329-U – The court affirmed the lower court’s holding and denied Broomfield’s argument that 30 years was an excessive sentence. Broomfield was 16 at the time of his offense; he was charged with four criminal counts, including first-degree murder. The trial court relied on two aggravating factors: Broomfield’s criminal history and deterrence of gun crimes. The lower court also considered mitigating factors, including Broomfield’s age, immaturity, peer pressure, his family life, education, trauma, and abuse. Based on the youthful offender parole act, Broomfield would have an opportunity to show he has been rehabilitated and be released in 20 years. However, Broomfield filed a motion to reconsider his sentence arguing the trial court focused on the aggravating factors too much and did not fully consider the mitigating factors. Ultimately, Broomfield argued his 30-year sentence is unconstitutional. The appellate court did not agree and reaffirmed prior cases explaining that while JLWOP is prohibited, a 40-year sentence is de facto life for youth; they included the factors that must be considered in sentencing a juvenile. Broomfield’s 30-year sentence was affirmed.
People v. Green, 2022 IL App (1st) 200749 – Alexis Green was 21 years old when he killed a police officer and 23 when he was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and armed robbery. The court considered giving him the death penalty or a natural life sentence but declined to do so because of his lack of prior violent crimes, intellectual disabilities, and because his actions were not “brutal or heinous.” Instead, the court sentenced Green to 100 years, the maximum the Legislature would allow for first-degree murder. Because of good conduct credit, the court pointed out he may only serve 50 years of his sentence. Green appealed, arguing his 100-year sentence violated Miller and the Proportionate Penalties Clause of the Illinois Constitution. He asserted that because he was 20 years old, his sentence amounted to a de facto life sentence and therefore was unconstitutional. However, the court points out he was actually 21 at the time of his offense, and Miller has only been extended to individuals who were 18 or 19 at the time of their offenses. The court considered several recent cases where individuals who committed their offense at age 21 or older advanced a Miller claim. While none of the cases extended Miller past the age of 21, the language left the door open for the Legislature or the Supreme Court to do so. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s holding that he was an adult at the time of his sentencing, so Miller and the constitutional arguments do not apply.
People v. Haywood, 2021 IL App (1st) 190809 – Karl Haywood was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. Haywood filed a post-conviction petition contending his sentence is at least arguably unconstitutional because he was 20 at the time of his offenses and the trial court imposed a de facto life sentence without due consideration of his youth and its attendant mitigating characteristics. Haywood argued his co-defendant, his brother, was 17 at the time of the offense and received a reduced sentence because of Montgomery. Haywood asserts that because he was 20 he should also be considered a juvenile and not a mature adult. The court explains that a young adult may raise a proportionate penalties claim if their petition provides “facts that can be corroborated, are objective in nature, and bear directly on the Supreme Court’s observation in Miller that a hallmark of youth is the lack of a fully formed character – traits that are not fixed and a corresponding capacity for meaningful rehabilitation.” Haywood did not provide enough evidence to make any claim for the court to consider under that framework. The appellate court affirmed his 50-year sentence because Miller and related cases govern the sentencing of minors, which his brother was at the time of the offense, does not apply to adults like Haywood. Further, the court held Haywood was more culpable than his brother as he planned the robbery and pulled the trigger.
People v. Aceituno, 2022 IL App (1st) 172116 – Manuel Aceituno appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to file a post-conviction petition where he argued his 48-year sentence is an unconstitutional de facto life sentence under the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Proportionate Penalties Clause of the Illinois Constitution. Aceituno claimed the trial court did not fully consider his youthfulness as he was 18 at the time of his offense. In People v. Reyes, the Illinois Supreme Court concluded, as a result of Miller, that a de facto life sentence violates the 8th amendment when applied to juveniles. Under Buffer, 40 years or more is a de facto life sentence for juveniles, requiring the sentencing court to consider the individual’s youth and attendant characteristics. Because Aceituno voluntarily plead guilty, he “waived any constitutional challenge based on subsequent changes in the applicable law.” Aceituno’s plea was a “negotiated as to charge,” but was a blind plea as to sentence. The appellate court found that the Illinois Jones holding that a guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional errors controls and it matters not that the plea in this case was open.
People v. Hill, 2022 IL App (2d) 200416 – Charles Hill was 18 when he was sentenced to 48 years imprisonment for first-degree murder. He was later resentenced to 40 years imprisonment. The trial court considered Hill’s youth as he was just a week shy of turning 18 at the time of his offense. The court considered his family life, home environment, educational background, social factors, and rehabilitation potential. Hill appealed his resentencing order arguing truth in sentencing is unconstitutional because it requires juvenile defendants to serve 100% of their sentences without the possibility of parole and that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him to 40 years in light of mitigating evidence. Regarding the truth in the sentencing argument, the court found Hill may only challenge the statute as it applies to him, not as he presently argued to the broad class of juvenile defendants. Hill’s argument about the trial court also fails. His sentence was 20 years below the maximum sentence on his murder charge and 45 years below the maximum with his enhancement attached. As a result, the court stated Hill has a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on maturity and rehabilitation as required by Miller. Ultimately, the court found the trial court accounted for Hill’s youth, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors and therefore did not abuse its discretion.
People v. Washington, 2021 IL App (4th) 200196 – Tory Washington was 19 at the time of his offense and entered into a plea agreement (a 35-year sentencing cap) sentencing him to 32 years in prison. He filed a post-conviction petition in 2019, which the trial court dismissed. Washington appealed that dismissal arguing his guilty plea was involuntary “in light of recent changes in jurisprudence surrounding emerging adults” and truth in sentencing violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. The appellate court held the trial court properly dismissed the petition because Miller does not extend to an individual who was not a juvenile or sentenced to a natural or de facto life sentence. Similar to the cases above, the court did not agree with Washington that “the truth-in-sentencing statute is uncoelnstitutional as applied to a person over the age of 18 who received a sentence other than life imprisonment.” Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Washington’s petition.
People v. Hilliard, 2021 IL App (1st) 200112 – Andrew Hilliard was 18 years old when a jury sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment. The trial court dismissed his post-conviction petition, and on appeal, he argued the trial court failed to consider his youth and attendant characteristics before imposing a mandatory firearm enhancement. The appellate court states young adults (between the ages of 18-21) may rely on science regarding brain development to support a challenge under the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. As a result of Harris and Thompson, young adults may “demonstrate that their own circumstances were so like those of a juvenile that imposition of a life sentence, absent the necessary considerations established in Miller, would violate the proportionate penalties clause.” Here, the court found Hilliard is not entitled to Miller protections because (1) he was 18, not a juvenile at the time of his offense, (2) he did not receive a natural or de facto life sentence, and (3) his sentence was not “cruel, degrading, or so wholly disproportionate…as to shock the moral sense of the community.” His sentence was not cruel or unusual because 25 years of his sentence resulted from the mandatory firearm enhancement that the Illinois Supreme Court has held does not violate the proportionate penalties clause. The court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Hilliard’s petition.
Glass v. Department of Corrections, 2022 IL App (4th) 220270 – Employees of public employers petitioned for temporary restraining orders that would bar public employers and Governor JB Pritzker from enforcing the workplace policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular COVID-19 testing. The lower court denied the petitions for temporary restraining orders holding the pleadings failed to establish any claim that was likely to succeed, which the majority affirmed. The employees argued the options to either get vaccinated or perform regular testing were “offensive to their conscience” and that they face “unpaid suspension or discharge for non-compliance.” They asserted only the Illinois Department of Public Health could require them to be vaccinated against, or tested for, contagious diseases. The court denies this claim, finding employers have authority over implementing workplace health and safety rules. Further, the employees claimed the policy was an act of discrimination prohibited by Section 5 of the Right of Conscience Act. The Act prohibits any person, public or private institution, or public official from discrimination that includes suggesting, recommending, or referring to participate in any way in any form of health care services that are contrary to that individual’s conscience. The General Assembly passed an amendment “making clear that it was not a violation of the Conscience Act for an employer to take measures calculated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Therefore, the court affirmed that the employees failed to make a claim.
Other cases of note:
People v. Watson, 2022 IL App (1st) 192182 – Prince Watson filed a post-conviction relief petition that was denied because he waived his constitutional claims by entering into a plea agreement, resulting in a 32-year prison sentence. His argument that truth-in-sentencing was unconstitutional as applied to him failed because requiring a juvenile to serve 100% of a nonlife sentence does not violate Miller or the 8th amendment, particularly in light of Illinois’ Jones decision finding that claims are waived by the guilty plea.
People v. Howard, 2021 IL App (2d) 190695 – Lester Howard (1) did not establish cause for failing to raise his proportionate penalties claim in his first post-conviction petition, (2) did not successfully argue the trial court failed to consider his youth and its attendant circumstances and should have made the argument decades earlier, (3) should have brought his proportionate penalties claim on direct appeal, and (4) did not introduce any evidence that would have persuaded the trial court to impose anything less than a life sentence.
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
We love hearing from you. Although we cannot individually respond to all the letters we receive, we read every letter and note your concerns. Please read below for answers to your frequently asked questions.
HOW YOUR FAMILY CAN OBTAIN A COPY OF OUR NEWSLETTER
Your loved one can visit our website to view this newsletter virtually at:
PELL GRANTS FOR INCARCERATED STUDENTS
From Stephanie Schmitz-Bechteler, PhD-Illinois Student Commission Assistance Commission:
In December 2020, the FAFSA Simplification Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, making many needed changes to how the federal government, states, and colleges/universities deliver financial aid to students. One very important change was ending the 26-year ban on Pell grants for incarcerated students. Further good news is that the law is “sentence-blind,” meaning all people can complete a FAFSA and apply for Pell grants regardless of their conviction or sentence length. To be eligible for a Pell grant, a person will need to be a student in an eligible higher education in prison (HEP) program that is offered in a federal, state, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, or juvenile justice facility. Students applying for a Pell grant cannot already have a bachelor’s or professional degree.
There are also changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form for the 2023-24 School Year. The changes include (1) removing questions to make the form easier and faster to complete; (2) removing the requirement that male students 25 and younger register with the Selective Service to be eligible for federal student aid; and (3) completely removing the question, “Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid?” (Please note: If you complete a FAFSA for the 2022-23 School Year, you will still see the Selective Service and drug conviction questions on the form, but they will not prevent the application from being processed or aid being awarded to eligible students.) The FAFSA Simplification Act also gave college/university financial aid offices more power to change the process of financial assistance on a case-by-case basis for students with special challenges or circumstances. This may help incarcerated students and their families if something makes it very difficult to complete the typical process.
The U.S. Department of Education, the federal agency that oversees all the federal aid rules, has recently released a draft of the 2023-24 FAFSA for Incarcerated Students form. If approved, it will become available on October 1, 2022, so that students can begin applying for financial aid for the 2023-24 school year. This timeline sometimes confuses students, but it looks like this: If you plan to start college on September 1, 2023 (the 2023-24 School Year), you would begin applying for financial aid starting on October 1, 2022 – about a year before you start classes. All 2023-24 school year applications must be submitted before midnight on June 30, 2023. Colleges and universities might have their own deadlines for applying for financial aid, so make sure to check with a representative of the program you’ll attend!
In November 2022, the U.S. Department of Education is also supposed to share the rules that colleges/universities must follow to award Pell Grants to students incarcerated in prison. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, a state government agency, will review information and rules from the federal government. More information will be available this fall, so stay tuned for updates.
PRISONER REVIEW BOARD
The Prisoner Review Board (PRB) considers cases of people who are incarcerated and eligible for parole, sets conditions for parole and mandatory supervised release, revokes good conduct credit and suspends or reduces the rate of accumulating such credit, and reviews recommendations for executive clemency. There are supposed to be 15 members of the PRB, but as of right now there are only 8 members on the board with 7 vacancies. The current members of the PRB are Edith Crigler (Chair), Jared Bohland, Lisa Daniels, Roger Heaton, Leeann Miller, Donald Shelton, Robin Shoffner, and Kenneth Tupy.
With an election looming in the coming months, the PRB was the subject of political attacks and several bills during the legislative session. Ultimately, Oreal James resigned as of March 2022; Jeffrey Mears and Eleanor Kaye Wilson failed to get the 30 votes needed in the Senate to confirm their appointments, and Gov. Pritzker pulled his nomination of Max Cerda. Because the PRB briefly lost its quorum, clemency hearings that were scheduled to be heard on April 12 – 15, 2022, have been rescheduled to June 13 – 15, 2002. (Dates and locations are subject to change or be extended.)
RESCHEDULED PRB CLEMENCY HEARINGS: June 13, 2022 to June 15, 2022
- Hearings held in Springfield, IL
- Deadline for petition: January 25, 2022, by 5 p.m.
PRB CLEMENCY HEARINGS: July 12, 2022 to July 14, 2022
- Hearings held in Chicago, IL
- Deadline for petition: April 26, 2022, by 5 p.m.
PRB CLEMENCY HEARINGS: October 4, 2022 to October 6, 2022
- Hearings held in Chicago, IL
- Deadline for petition: July 22, 2022, by 5 p.m.
ILLINOIS RESENTENCING TASK FORCE
The Resentencing Task Force was created by the General Assembly to study innovative ways to reduce Illinois’s prison population through resentencing. The Task Force started meeting in February 2022 to consider ways for incarcerated people, state’s attorneys, the IDOC, and judges to file resentencing motions to allow someone who previously received a long sentence to be considered for earlier release. The Task Force is charged with submitting recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor’s Office by July 1, 2022, but this will likely be extended to December.
A diverse group of stakeholders, including law enforcement representatives and criminal legal system reform advocates, make up the Task Force. The members of the Resentencing Task Force are: Sen. Darren Bailey, State’s Attorney Bob Berlin, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Jobi Cates (Advocate and Restore Justice Founder), Lisa Daniels (Victims’ Representative and Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices Founder), Police Chief Mitchell Davis, Yaacov Delaney (Director of Justice, Equity and Opportunities Initiative, and Breaking Cycles Founder), LaToya Hughes (IDOC), Hon. Cheryl Ingram, Ari Jones (Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office), Shobha Mahadev (Private Defense Counsel), Scott Main (Office of the State Appellate Defender), Sharone Mitchell Jr. (Cook County Public Defender), Sen. Robert Peters, Hon. Marcus Salone, Hon. Steve Sawyer, and Rep. Ryan Spain.
The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC) is providing administrative and technical support to the Task Force. To share your views with the Resentencing Task Force, your loved ones can email SPAC.RTF@illinois.gov. Communications received in the mailbox will be shared with members of the Task Force. Keep in mind that the Task Force has no authority to consider or advocate for resentencing in individual cases.
STATE’S ATTORNEY RESENTENCING INITIATIVE
SB2129, which allows prosecutors, at their discretion, to motion a sentencing judge or their successor to resentence incarcerated persons whose original sentences no longer advance the interests of justice, went into effect on January 1, 2022. Upon receipt of a motion for resentencing, sentencing judges may, at their discretion, resentence an incarcerated person to a lesser sentence.
Since this initiative is at the discretion of the state’s attorney, it is up to each State’s Attorney’s Office to decide if and how they will implement SB2129. Cook County has published the criteria below for implementing SB2129. If your case is outside of Cook County, contact the state’s attorney to find out if they are implementing SB2129.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) has established the following criteria to prioritize cases for the Resentencing Initiative:
- Persons who have served at least 10 years of a sentence for a drug-related offense.
- Persons who are currently age 65 or older and have served at least 20 years for a non-sex and non-homicide offense.
- Persons who were under 21 at the time of their offense and have served at least 15 years for a non-sex and non-homicide offense.
- Persons who have served at least 10 years for a theft/robbery/burglary offense.
The CCSAO cannot request resentencing for people who have not served at least the minimum sentence for their crime(s) and/or who are currently serving mandatory sentences, such as mandatory life sentences. The review process will include consideration of additional factors, including but not limited to, prior convictions, disciplinary record while incarcerated, programming participation, and record of rehabilitation while incarcerated. For additional information, your loved ones can email the CCSAO at email@example.com. The CCSAO is not actively reviewing requests for resentencing.
We do not have information on how other counties in Illinois are implementing this initiative. We will share more information as it becomes available.
STIMULUS CHECKS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED
People who are incarcerated are eligible for three rounds of stimulus checks that were disbursed in 2020 and 2021. If you didn’t receive your first or second stimulus checks, you will have to claim them as the Recovery Rebate Credit by filing a 2020 federal tax return (this is a past-year tax return). If you didn’t receive your third stimulus check, you will have to file a 2021 federal tax return and claim the third stimulus check as the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. On both the 2020 and 2021 federal tax return, line 30 is for Recovery Rebate Credit, where you will put the amount you are owed for your stimulus checks. Beware that the government may reduce your tax refund to pay for any debts you may owe (i.e. child support payments and/or creditor and debt collectors).
FAMILY SUPPORT & ADVOCACY GROUP (CRIIC): We meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month to discuss legislation, court decisions, and prison conditions. We also share our strategies for self-care and caring for an incarcerated loved one. Below is our upcoming schedule. Please have your loved ones email Julie Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our email list for meeting information and registration. In-person meetings are held at Precious Blood Ministry, 1238 W 51st St. in Chicago. Lunch is provided for in-person meetings. Every other month, we hold the meeting virtually so people outside of the Chicago area are able to attend. I encourage all of your loved ones to attend.
June 14, 2022 – Virtual – 2 to 3 p.m.
July 12, 2022 – In-person, 1238 W 51st St. – 1 to 3 p.m.
August 9, 2022 – Virtual – 2 to 3 p.m.
September 13, 2022 – 1238 W 51st St. – 1 to 3 p.m.
October 11, 2022 – Virtual – 2 to 3 p.m.
QUAD CITIES LOVED ONES SUPPORT GROUP
“Foundation 1 by 1” is a new support group for families and friends of people who are incarcerated. This loving support group is based in the Quad Cities. Our belief is that together things are better. Our mission is that in the midst of difficulty, together we stand, one by one! This group connects once per month to strengthen our bond and stand together. We have a tentative meeting scheduled for July 23. If you or your family and friends are in the Quad City area and would like to join our group, please email email@example.com.
UPCOMING EVENTS AND TRAININGS
Duri During our trainings, you will learn about the legislative process in Illinois and how a bill really becomes a law, develop skills to navigate Springfield, and build support for issues that matter to you. These free trainings are open to individuals and organizations interested in advancing change in our state through the legislative process in Springfield. While our focus is on criminal legal reform, we try to make our training useful for any issue.
UPCOMING IN-PERSON TRAINING – LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY 101
Saturday, June 18 to noon – Chicago, River North neighborhood
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH LEGISLATORS (ADVANCED TRAINING)
This is a more advanced training than Legislative Advocacy 101, but everyone is welcome.
Saturday, June 4, 2022 – 10 to 11:30 am – Virtual
Wednesday, June 22 – 3:30 to 5:30 pm – Virtual
Saturday, July 16, 2022 – 10 to noon – Chicago River North Neighborhood
RESTORE JUSTICE ADDRESS UPDATES
Restore Justice is happy to add anyone incarcerated in Illinois to our mailing list. We are always happy to hear of people being released. If you are released, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to stay in touch when you return home.
If you are transferred, please let us know. Mark the envelope: “address change.”
Many of you have written requesting email correspondence from us; we are sorry, but it is not practical at this time for us to send out legislative updates via email.
OUR NEW LANGUAGE GUIDE (SEE LEFT AND BELOW)
Restore Justice is excited to introduce our new “language guide.” We hope this resource will be useful to you and advocates, attorneys, journalists, and elected officials. As you know, our staff includes people who spent decades in prison, and many of us have loved ones in prison as well. We want to help work toward a time when people are treated with dignity and respect. While we know a language guide can’t do that, we also have learned a lot about how words do contribute to either diminishing or lifting up people’s inherent dignity. We reviewed research that shows how the language we use has lasting effects. With that in mind, we created this guide to make reframing language about the criminal legal system more accessible and understandable.
WBEZ PRISONCAST SURVEY
WBEZ (Chicago’s public radio station) is partnering with public radio stations across the state to host a radio event for people inside and their loved ones outside. They want to know what you want to hear. Find the survey below and/or share this link with your loved ones: https://bit.ly/3wr8kzu
RESTORE JUSTICE STAFF UPDATE
FROM THE DESK OF…
Jobi Cates, Executive Director
Hello from Chicago! As I’ve been editing this letter, I’ve become overwhelmed with the number of bills that were so quickly introduced during this short session, and how many (thankfully, in the case of the harmful bills) did not pass. This has been a hard season for so many reasons. We are still living with COVID19 mitigations, particularly when it comes to visiting loved ones in prison. We had to listen to some community leaders and politicians “call out” others for being too lenient on crime, sometimes using misleading or false information to ramp up fear. I am just now starting to come to terms with some of the losses to my community over the past few months, which includes individuals in my recovery community who succumbed to their addictions in part out of the loneliness that COVID brought so many. But then again, we have seen some real signs of hope. I am heartened that there are five former “juvenile lifers” now at Kewanee. These individuals have been “behind the wall” most of their time in prison and are now actually getting some pre-release education. I never thought I would see that day… most who were resentenced in the early days came out from a max or medium max facility, with little or no preparation. Most exciting to me is the feeling from some progressive legislators that they are not going to be cowed by the negative session; they have their backs up and they want to keep fighting. As always, your letters provide so much inspiration for us. I wish each of you the best possible spring and summer and hope you are finding ways to grow as the days grow longer.
Julie Anderson, Outreach Director
Greetings, I know that so many of you have suffered with covid these past two years. Thank you for all of your letters, they keep the staff going. We read every single letter although we cannot answer them individually we try to address your questions here. We are working on improving the newsletter and addressing your concerns.
Lindsey Hammond, Policy Director
Hello! I have really enjoyed working on this newsletter and reading your letters. Thank you for taking the time to write. This has been an extraordinary legislative session because of its brevity and hostile rhetoric on public safety and violence. We know that election years are tough, if not impossible, to pass meaningful criminal legal reform. However, we are in this work for the long haul and will be open to any opportunities to move legislation after the general election in November. In the meantime, I’ll be focused on the Resentencing Task Force. My hope is that the Task Force could lead to additional opportunities for you to come home. On a personal note, I am enjoying the warmer weather. As a Southern transplanted to Chicago, the summer is my favorite season. I hope whatever season you are in that you can find moments of joy. Peace and blessings to you!
Alissa Rivera, Communications Director
Hello! I hope this newsletter finds you in good health. It has been a busy winter and spring at Restore Justice. In addition to our legislative work in Springfield, we have been settling back into the office, and hosting trainings. We have welcomed amazing new apprentices, and I am so grateful to have them with us. This summer, my goal is to tell more stories, especially the accountability theory stories I’ve written to you about. Please know our team is thinking of all of you.
Wendell Robinson, Program Director
Hey Y’all, hope all is well with everybody. I wanted to tell you all about an event Restore Justice had the opportunity to be part of. On April 23, we were fortunate to partner with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation and Building Leaders Advocating for Change (B.L.A.C., Inc) for a day of mentoring called “100 Men with Ties.” The purpose was to partner 50 men with 50 young men and stress the importance of general etiquette (i.e the importance of maintaining eye contact, a firm handshake, etc.) We also showed the kids how to tie a tie, and we were able to take some of the young men on a college tour. One of my bigger appreciations from all of this was to see how many men stepped up; we literally had more men than kids. That to me was big–understanding this was like a call to action to see how MEN wanted to really be a part of this movement, particularly men who are part of our impacted community. So I look forward to when we are able to do it again next year. Please believe our impacted community is making a difference! Words really can’t express what this day was like. Put it like this: imagine how you’d feel if you KNEW your efforts could possibly change the trajectory of a young person’s life. Until the next entry, still forever in solidarity!
Kayla Rueda, Chief of Staff
Hello everyone! It is always great to write to you. I have been receiving a number of your letters lately and I do my best to reply. The past two months I have been dealing with some health issues and have had some time away from work. It’s allowed me to focus on my mental health and self-care. I know many of you practice mindfulness – it has helped me tremendously. After the Summer ends, I am planning on finishing my Masters Degree at the University of Illinois Chicago. I am halfway through and can not wait to get it completed. I hope this newsletter finds you well and in good health.
Alice Swan, Operations Director
Hello, and happy spring, finally! Things in the RJ office have felt like normal for the past few months for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic—we’ve now had a couple months of everyone working in the office together on a regular basis, and it’s so nice to be able to interact with each other in person! We are grateful for the technology that allowed us to continue our work while we needed to stay home, but even more grateful to have come through the last two years a bigger and stronger team. Many of us have also resumed visiting our friends and family members who are incarcerated, and we’re also treasuring those hugs and in-person time, and hoping for an end to the plexiglass situation soon. I wish this newsletter had better legislative news, but a disappointing session this year won’t keep us from continuing to push for reform next year.
Nelson Morris, Program Associate
Hello, I love being a part of this Newsletter. I remember looking forward to receiving it myself. I am also happy to be able to go to our office and spend time with my Restore Justice family. I am still amazed at the passion and devotion I see in the actions of my co-workers. I know first hand how frustrating it is to sit in them cells. So stay focused, positive, and keep your heads up. And know that we are fighting for you. Blessings!!!!
James Swansey, Policy Associate
Greetings brothers and sisters! It is with great pleasure that I am able to speak to you all who look forward to this newsletter. I definitely can relate because I too once looked forward to receiving the newsletter also. Seeing the letters come in reminds me of why we do what we do, and it gives me pleasure to know the information we pass along can truly assist someone. So thank you to all who have written. So many things I have learned in this advocacy space has only given me the opportunity to give back to the same system in which I fought so hard to get out of. There are so many things that push me forward, but the biggest reason is that I know now that I have a voice and that I can and will be heard. I use this voice in every capacity, for all that do not have a voice….as of right now!! I keep you all in prayer and ask that you continue to take care of yourselves and never give up the fight! Be safe! Thank you!
NaJei Webster, Future Leader Apprentice Program, First Lady
Hello everyone! I am 4 months into my apprenticeship with Restore Justice and it has been an amazing experience thus far. Being able to sit in on clemency hearings and Senate hearings to witness how bills are voted on and passed/denied, was a very eye opening experience. I came home Sept. 15, 2021 and I couldn’t have landed a better job. But the best part is that I can be a voice for the women that I left behind. To my surprise, within the restorative justice space, there is not a lot of knowledge of what women go through behind the walls. I am grateful to be able to shine light on the things that go on within Logan C.C. and Decatur C.C. I am also working on a Volunteer Program, to be able to reach back to people still incarcerated, find out their needs pre-release, as well as post-release, whatever these needs may be. I am working on trying to make one’s release back into society as easy and smooth as possible. I am also hosting monthly Returning Citizens meetings to give those coming home from prison a space to network, build relationships, and/or receive support from others who have been through the same experiences. I am grateful to be in a space where I can be of assistance to my brothers and sisters coming home, but most importantly, my brothers and sisters who are still waiting for release. I am home but I remain in the fight to help release more people from prison. I miss you all tremendously and hope that you remain hopeful and safe!
Marcelo de Jesus Velzaquez (ABDUL AZEEZ/BRONX), Apprentice
Hello, my incarcerated sisters and brothers. I pray and hope that you all are well and blessed. I, myself, is a formerly incarcerated individual who now has been home for thirty four (34) days and counting; thank God! By the Grace of God, and the opportunity given to me by my sisters and brothers at Restore Justice Foundation, esp. by my brother from another mother Mr. Wendell Robinson, I am privileged to be a part of Restore Justice’s FLAP (Future Leaders Apprenticeship Program) apprenticeship. I began the FLAP apprenticeship on May 2nd, 2022, and it is all we can imagine and more; these people truly care about us–currently and formerly incarcerated individuals–and our well being, both in-and-out of prison walls. I understand that you do not know me from either Adam or a can of corn and that it is your choice to believe me or not, but for what is worth just imagine a Latinx male fresh out of prison after serving twenty one years in IDOC, out just three weeks and without employment, and given a chance at a promising program that further advances the SELF’s dignity, humanity and critical consciousness, then being awaken to the reality of knowing this person as me. My incarcerated sisters and brothers, we got your back; we just need you to believe in us and in our passion and work we do for you, towards your current and future wellbeing, and ultimately, God willing, toward obtaining your freedom through successful policy changes. THUS, you must be patient and place your trust in our process. Thank you for your precious time and may life reward you and yours.
Maurice Hughes (Reese Sco), Apprentice
Greetings and blessings my fellow comrades. I woke up this morning full of excitement and positive energy, for today marks the beginning of a new journey for me. One of true purpose and fulfillment through helping others and creating positive change for those who society has purposely turned their backs on. I just came home April 18, 2022, not even a month ago, and already I’ve been met with challenges you can’t imagine. But that’s to be expected, right? However, like most instances in life, having a solid support system can make almost any crisis appear small and/or non-existent. Fostering strong and genuine relationships while incarcerated, as well as in general, can be of great benefit to you in life for a variety of reasons. Who knew a childhood friend of mine, who also himself was serving a natural life sentence, would become the program director of an organization geared towards helping individuals that were imprisoned, not only gain their freedom back, but also once free, get their lives back on track. My brother Wendell Robinson, Program Director, has been that for me. Providing me with an opportunity to work in a space in which I am already comfortable and passionate about, helping others and striving to make some desperately needed changes to this bogus ass criminal system. Never give up hope or a willingness to change your perspective, your surroundings, and your environment. Stay tuned.
Greetings from our Interns:
Hi everyone, I am about to be a recent law school graduate from the University of Minnesota. It is with a heavy heart that I am writing my final newsletter update to you all. Although my internship is coming to an end, I have learned so much from everyone who we work with along with your family members about what the legal system really is. In law school, I read cases, made arguments, and learned how to think critically about legal issues. At Restore Justice, I gained the human element of the law – the part that we do not learn in the classroom. I witnessed the real impact the legal system has on not only the person serving time, but their loved ones on the outside. While I will no longer be an intern, I will stay involved with Restore Justice to continue to make systemic change for everyone serving extreme sentences. Thank you all for how much you have taught me.
Hi everyone! I am excited to be graduating with my Masters of Divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary this May. Sadly, that also means I will be leaving Restore Justice in a few weeks. I have absolutely loved my time here and am thankful for all I have learned about the impact of advocacy work. My long-term research over this past year focused on the impact of language in policymaking and how to reframe language that affirms the dignity of people who are incarcerated. I truly could not have done this research without the valuable insight of people impacted by the system, within our organization, and outside of it. Even though I will no longer intern for Restore Justice, I have been deeply changed by my work here and will continue to do criminal legal system advocacy. Thank you all for being part of grounding my passion for this work.
Hi everyone! My name is Joey, and I am a Social Work student and an intern with Restore Justice. I started work with Restore Justice in January, and am in the first year of my Master’s program at the University of Chicago. I’m studying with the intention of working in substance abuse treatment. I have loved my time working with Restore Justice and am so grateful to work with an organization that is so genuinely passionate about making a difference in the lives of people impacted by mass incarceration. While at Restore Justice I’ve had the chance to work on policy research, research and write about IDOC’s PREA compliance, and attend RJ’s support group for formerly incarcerated people and their families (CRIIC).
Hello all! My name is Noah, and I am a policy intern with Restore Justice. I’m in my first year of a Masters in Social Work program at the University of Chicago, hoping to provide counseling and mental health support to youth and families in Chicago. It’s been such a pleasure to work with an organization so dedicated to reforming unjust systems. My research areas with Restore Justice have included the death penalty, truth in sentencing policy, and transitional housing for returning citizens. I look forward to continuing to work with you all!
Hi everyone! My name is Suzanna, and I am an intern with Restore Justice. I have been working with Restore Justice since September. I am about to graduate from Connecticut College. Sadly, that means I will be leaving in the next few weeks. I cannot speak enough about RJ. I have been so fortunate to work alongside amazing people who genuinely care about those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. I have learned so much about criminal legal system advocacy. Throughout my time here, I conducted research on HB1064 and helped Alissa with social media graphics. Although I will no longer be interning with Restore Justice, I hope to stay connected to this amazing team.
PO Box 101099
Chicago, IL 60608
Restore Justice Visiting Questionnaire
Please mail this questionnaire to one of your loved ones. We will not share their name or contact information.
Please have them mail it to:
Restore Justice Foundation
Attn: Visiting Survey
PO Box 101099
Chicago, IL 60610
Have you been able to visit your loved one in-person, within the last six months?
If so, what facility did you visit?
Did you have any issues scheduling your visit or did your visit get canceled?
Did you receive your full visit time (excluding check-in)?
Please tell us about any issues that you experienced while checking-in or during your visit?
Were you able to hear your loved one through the plexiglass?
Were you able to purchase food from the vending machines?
During your visit, were the correctional officers wearing masks (correctly – covering their mouth and nose)?
Have you contacted the Family Liaison – Natalie Mason? If yes, please tell us about your experience? If you do not have her information, you can contact her at 217-558-2200 ext 6226 or DOC.Constituent.Services@illinois.gov
Do you have any other additional comments or concerns about your visit?