December 3, 2018
TO: Committee Chairs Kim Fox, Jehan Gordon-Booth, and Robin Kelly
CC: Lieutenant Governor-elect Juliana Stratton, Representative Rita Mayfield
FROM: The Stateville Debate Team
RE: Invitation to meet with the Stateville Debate Team
We are aware that Governor-elect Pritzker has announced the formation of a Restorative Justice and Safe Communities Committee. We appreciate that the Governor-elect recognizes the need to fix our broken criminal-justice system and to do so in a way that “move[s] away from a system of imprisonment and build[s] a true system of justice.”
We are writing today for two reasons. First, we believe that the establishment of a fair, inclusive, and retroactive parole system is crucial to true criminal-legal reform. This system must evaluate every person who enters prison to assess their program and rehabilitation needs; and, equally important, it must evaluate the currently incarcerated men and women, with the aim of ameliorating the excessive sentences that already have been handed out.
Second we believe that the committee needs to hear directly from incarcerated individuals. Regardless of how well-intentioned the committee, they will not fully understand the failings of our criminal-legal system or the steps needed for “a true system of justice” until they hear from the men and women who have direct experience with prisons and the criminal-legal system.
Therefore, we invite the chairs and members of your committee to come to Stateville Correctional Center and meet with the Stateville Debate Team. The Stateville Debate Team is particularly well positioned to contribute to the work of your committee. We are group of men from diverse social backgrounds who have experienced incarceration at prisons across the state. We were selected to participate in an educational debate program at Stateville prison. We have pursued substantial research on criminal-justice reform. We have presented our analysis of issues related to discretionary parole to a group of state legislators and community members last March.
We also urge the committee to meet with incarcerated people at prisons across Illinois. Women prisoners have unique concerns and perspectives, and we particularly hope that you will meet with women such as Janet Jackson and other women incarcerated at Logan.
Finally, as you may know, Representative Rita Mayfield recently held subject-matter-only hearings on the issue of bringing a fair parole system to Illinois. Representative Mayfield has conferred with the Stateville Debate Team and is drafting legislation based on the framework developed by the Debate Team. The Debate Team proposal can be found here: https://paroleillinois.org/stateville-debate-team-proposal/. We also invite you to visit the Parole Illinois website, ParoleIllinois.org.
We look forward to further discussions with you. (You can contact us at ParoleIllinois@gmail.com)