Who are we? We are a coalition of people inside and outside of prison who are working toward a more just and humane legal system.
We believe in the power of redemption and transformation; and that it is inhumane to order people to spend decades in prison until they die there without any periodic assessment of whether such sentences are necessary for public safety. We therefore stand against policies that sentence people to death by incarceration, whether that be life-without-parole or excruciatingly long sentences that people cannot outlive.
We recognize that excessive sentencing laws have piled up in Illinois, to the point that few people understand them and thousands of people are now required to die behind bars. We also recognize that each of these problematic sentencing laws needs to be repealed. And we recognize that each ameliorative law needs to be applied retroactively. However, we don’t believe that we can wait to establish a fair parole system until each of those battles are won individually, because many people will die behind bars in the meantime.
Therefore, our first course of action is to bring to Illinois a fair, inclusive, and retroactive parole system. We are building a grassroots movement and working with legislators to promote parole legislation that is inclusive and that prioritizes rehabilitation and return to full citizenship. In addition, this legislation must distinguish the initial trial (which focuses on responsibility for the crime) from the parole hearing, which should focus on a person’s level of rehabilitation and current risk to public safety.
We believe that such a parole system would present the most expeditious way for the many over-incarcerated and wrongly incarcerated men and women in Illinois to obtain their freedom. We don’t take this lightly. We are prepared to devote substantial effort to establishing a fair and inclusive parole system and maintaining a fair and effective parole board.
We seek to mobilize people behind the wall as well as activists and loved ones of incarcerated individuals to fight for parole and, more broadly, for a more just and humane legal system.
Our recent activities:
> We have been working with Representative Rita Mayfield to develop fair and inclusive parole legislation. On November 8, Representative Mayfield held subject-matter-only hearings to discuss bringing a fair parole system to Illinois. We testified at that hearing.
>We have contacted state senators to discuss their possible sponsorship of the Stateville Debate Team parole bill.
>We set up a website, ParoleIllinois.org, and a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ParoleIllinois/
>We are holding an art and essay contest on why Illinois needs a good parole system. Online voting for the artwork will be open until Jan 15, 2018 at ParoleIllinis.org. Winners will be announced by the end of January.
> Following the formation of a new Restorative Justice and Safe Communities Committee by Governor-elect Pritzker, the Stateville Debate Team wrote a memo to the chairs of the committee. The Debate Team explained that any true criminal-legal reform must include the establishment of a fair parole system and must be informed by the voices of people with direct experiences of prisons and the criminal-legal system. Parole Illinois is helping to distribute the memo to committee members and state representatives.
> We are developing campaign materials to distribute to friends and family members as well as other materials to distribute to elected officials.
> We are preparing to organize friends and family members of incarcerated individuals to lobby our representatives and tell the stories of their loved one who deserve parole. You can sign up for lobbyng here: https://paroleillinois.org/help-with-lobbying-sign-up-here/ You can submit a story here: https://paroleillinois.org/my-loved-one-deserves-parole/
>We are producing a video about the need for parole that we will launch when our bill is introduced. .
> We received a grant to produce a booklet of exemplary men and women in Illinois with life sentences who deserve parole.
>We are working with Scrappers Film Group to take the film Stateville Calling on a nationwide tour in the spring.
If you are on the inside and want to get involved in the campaign for a fair and inclusive parole system, send your name and address to the PO Box below and indicate that you would like the Parole Illinois campaign packet for people on the inside. We will be sending out the packets in January or February.
PO Box 7155
Westchester, IL 60154
We regret that we do not have the staff to respond to individual queries at this address. However, your family and friends on the outside can email us at ParoleIllinois.org, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ParoleIllinois/ and receive regular email updates when they sign our support form: https://paroleillinois.org/support-us/