Michael Coleman by Delonda Daffin

I am here to state that my loved one, Michael Coleman (#B08725), is currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center. He was wrongfully convicted for murder under the theory of accountability. Mr. Coleman has been institutionalized for over 23 years for a crime that he did not commit. Mr. Coleman has been stripped of his freedom for something that he did not do. I need Michael Coleman set free now.

I am knowledgeable of Illinois being the only state without a parole board. It is not fair that he is left to rot in prison. He is no more guilty of committing such a crime, or any crime, than you or I. I completely support HB 3214. Send my loved one home. He doesn’t deserve this. He didn’t do anything. #ISUPPORTHB3214 #PAROLEILLINOIS #FREEMICHAELCOLEMAN

Wesam Zumut by Lara Zumut

This petition has been created on behalf of my brother Wesam Zumot that involves him in a story that took a turn for the worse. Many times we hear the phrase, “in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” This has basically been the story of my brother Wesam’s life. During the times when my brother was not incarcerated, he was working hard to support his family. He comes from a cultural background where respect and loving people were his biggest strengths.

That all changed when, one day, my brother was physically attacked by a group of 5 people in a vehicle. This was for no reason but to attack him and take his life away. The instinct that my brother had at that moment was to protect himself through self-defense. This happened during the time my brother was working at night, and he was driving home alone in the late evening. He was followed, and then stopped due to this unforeseen moment. He was being shot at. The person that was shooting at my brother was shot due to my brother being scared, and he killed him. The gun had flown out of his hand, and he drove away, petrified by the situation. The gun was never to be found, and there was no evidence. Because of this, he was charged with first degree murder. He was not seen as a young man defending himself. He has been sentenced to 25 years for gun possession and another 20 years for murder. He has been incarcerated since the year 2002 and has not been given the opportunity to have parole. Our judicial system has failed him, neglecting his situation of self-defense and basing his sentence on no substantial evidence. The sentence was based on the idea that he caused this on his own and intended to take someone’s life.

He has spent most of his life in prison based on half of a story that was not presented factually. This has resulted in a heartbroken family and has distressed my parents throughout the years. I was getting threats that my life would be over, not even realizing what was happening to me. We had to get up and move to a place where we could live and be free from this happening to us. Until this day, we will always fight for my brother’s innocence and to support him throughout this terrible journey. The case that was made is flawed and unethical. Lawyers have taken advantage of our situation to ask for thousands of dollars to work on this case that should not have come to this. We constantly hear about innocent people being incarcerated for years and years while they are sitting in a jail cell hating themselves, feeling left alone, when deep down they knew they were defending themselves.

I stand with my brother, and I have supported him through the many changes he has made and the wonderful approach he has taken, regardless of his situation. Wesam’s conduct and spirits alone should be looked at as a reason to stand with me and help me bring justice to my brother’s life. I pray and ask for the help of others to help our family. Please take the time to spread the word and sign this petition. This may not be a huge part of your life, but it is a huge part of mine. I will always fight for his justice, and I pray that he is given at least a chance to live a life that should have been lived. A life where he is not incarcerated for something he did defending himself. This is his life! This petition is to give him a chance to truly defend himself with the truth, and the truth only.

Thank you for your support.

Tony Dameron by Loretta Demeron

My husband, Tony Dameron, deserves parole after almost 25 years of being incarcerated. He is not the same person he once was. Family and friends tell me and police reports document the man he was 25 years ago. They talk about someone that I’ve never met and do not know. Once full of anger, drugs and violence, he now has regret, is remorseful and accepts his culpability. He has nothing but love, compassion and generosity to give today. He has a wife and family, grown children and grand-babies who love and adore him. Our daughter recently told him that the DOC doesn’t need him, but we do. The man once feared and deemed by the judge on his trial as “having no rehabilitative value” is now industrious and trusted, which is apparent from the various jobs he’s held over the years. This includes his last one in maximum security as “critical” worker/welder in Pontiac’s maintenance department and his current position in MSU as Porter on his unit. Tony is considered an “exception to the criteria,” and he was leveled down from maximum to medium security. He was granted his spot at the MSU in Pontiac 2 years ago, which is quite an accomplishment for someone who once had a sentence to die.

Tony has a genuine desire to be a better man today than he was yesterday. He has worked tirelessly to correct behaviors of the past through rehabilitative programs offered through the Department of Corrections, programs he’s sought and paid for himself. He lives the life of an accountable, committed recovering addict whole-heartedly, taking full responsibility for his past actions. He leads Celebrate Recover Inside at Pontiac Correctional MSU and is one of the Peer Counselors for the institution. He’s served as a mentor with various programs designed for the inmates that will be released with the hope of helping others to be successful outside so they do not return. He’s also served as a teaching assistant for those that are working on their GED.

Tony is a talented artist — he shares with his family and friends many pieces of artwork. He has won various awards for art contests at the institution. In the summer and fall of 2018, he volunteered and was granted the opportunity to share his artistic talent with the prison to paint the visiting room, which made the visiting experience a brighter, more positive one for families visiting their loved ones. This included designing and painting murals on the walls so that there was a background for families to have their photo taken with their loved one when the DOC brought that back. Painted in bright, cheerful color are the words, “Live, Love, Laugh,” the new direction for his life. A cheerful scene of children reading under trees adorns yet another wall inviting families to the shelves of books to read, coloring books, puzzles and games — a stark contrast to the grey wall that used to be there. His plan upon release is to continue his ministry with Celebrate Recovery, to counsel those with addictions before it is too late, and to continue in his skilled trades from before and during incarceration. He wants to give back, to be a productive member of society, and to take care of his wife and family. His family and I want him home so that we can further build on the life that we’ve grown with him.

Charles Bixby by Andrew Deppe

I first met Charles as part of a prison pen pal project over twelve years ago. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know him, supported his efforts at continuing education and establishing a Buddhist meditation practice, visited him in person every year or two, and watched him help other prisoners in need of practical and moral support. Charles was imprisoned in 1998 for a crime he did not commit. During the trial, the state allowed the alleged victim to change their testimony on the stand, which helped to lead to a wrongful conviction. During the appeal process, one judge determined that the state should answer all of Charles’s claims, but later the appeal was denied. I believe Charles should be considered for immediate parole, after over twenty years of wrongful imprisonment. During all this time, Charles has remained positive and hopeful, practicing meditation, creating artwork, taking correspondence courses, and helping those in need. I am confident that he would be a productive member of society on his release. Thank you for your consideration.

Angelo Bennett by Geneva Bennett

My son, Angelo, has no record. He went to Northside Prep and was a manager at two Jimmy John’s locations. A great kid, a wonderful man.

He was in a car accident. The man followed him even when police told him not to. The man stabbed my son for 5 minutes. Angelo had to finally defend himself. Then they claimed that he shot the lady who was with the man who stabbed him, but they never showed her medical records, no gunshot residue on her or the car. She left the hospital the next day.

This case is insane. My son was only trying to save him and his friend’s lives. Angelo should have gotten self defense. I am 50, and I will be dead when my son gets out. His grandma will be dead. My brother is a Chicago detective, and every cop and lawyer I talk to says that something went horribly wrong with his case. Just because we’re poor doesn’t mean my son shouldn’t have justice and his freedom before he has no family to come home to. Please help. Please.

Dedrick Coleman by Aminah Coleman

In 1991, Dedrick was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. The detectives were from Area 3 and under the Supervision of the infamous Jon Burge. Documents and witnesses throughout the years have proven that the detectives falsified police reports, fabricated and concealed evidence in Dedrick’s case. (Settlements have been awarded in recent years regarding these detectives and their misconduct — their reputation is well known) The State knew all along that their witnesses were lying in court. Still, Dedrick lingers behind prison bars.

My husband has fought to prove his innocence for 30 years. A pro se leave to file & a successive post-conviction petition have been before Judge Petrone in Cook County since December 6, 2018, and no decision, no court date, nothing has moved forward. We have been unable to hire an attorney because of the amount of work they say would be involved with the case being so old, so Dedrick is fighting for his freedom and against his wrongful conviction on his own. It is inexcusable that because of these detectives, my husband has spent 30 years in the IDOC, with his death sentence being exchanged for life without the possibility of parole. Dedrick has no choice but to keep fighting for his life — there is no other way out. He is 52 years old and has spent 30 years in IDOC for a crime that someone else committed. He is a good man with a good heart. He has a legal mind and has helped so many other men around him to get back into court, file petitions, etc. He deserves a chance at life and a chance for his freedom. If he had the opportunity for parole, yes, he would take it.

The system is broken. Can it ever be fixed? Not as long as innocent people linger behind bars. But bringing back parole for men like Dedrick, where the courts refuse to do the right thing, would be a step forward for those who have long ago paid the price with their freedom, regardless of if they did the crime or not. Parole is hope, and all human beings need hope.

George Frison Jr. “Why I Deserve Parole”

I deserve parole because I won’t take the opportunity to redeem myself lightly. I will right the wrongs that I have directly and indirectly participated in which place our families and communities on the brink of ruin. Society needs me, as well as like-minded individuals, to mentor troubled young men and women in an attempt to change their mindset and set them on a more positive path.
One could arguably say that a “byproduct” of our actions, or lack thereof, has our children slaughtering themselves and others at an alarming rate. Many of the parents, preachers, teachers, politicians, law enforcement officials, and community activists, have made valiant efforts that I commend. However, there seems to be no end in sight, as the madness continues.
One of the most simple and logical solutions, if not the most simple and logical, is right in front of everyone’s eyes! The question is, would concerned citizens of society rather continue seeing babies and innocent, hardworking, law-abiding people die, or choose what some would consider to be the lesser of two evils? We do it all the time when electing officials to serve public office. Why not to save lives?
When the anti-venom for a snakebite is produced,strains of snake venom are used to make the antidote. We must take the same approach in combating the ailments that continue to plague our communities. The antidote to the poison ravaging our neighborhoods is being warehoused behind prison walls. We, society’s outcasts and forgotten, hold the cure to an epidemic that has spread way past and out of control!
Here in Illinois, there are upwards of 5,000 or more incarcerated people who’ve served lengthy, outrageous sentences that are not affording an opportunity to be paroled and restored to useful citizenship. Many of us accept responsibility for directly or indirectly perpetuating the violence and other criminal activities that are destroying us as human beings. Having taken advantage of various educational and religious programs that prison has to offer, many of us have evolved into a greater understanding of manhood. Through this “new awakening,” we’ve begun to value life and accept responsibility for our actions, becoming more loving and compassionate, with a sincere desire to educate and enlighten those who are unconscious.
What purpose does it serve to have programs in prison that educate and rehabilitate men, only to keep them hidden behind prison walls for decades? Is it to satiate the public with the one-sided force of getting tough on crime to make communities safe? Incarcerated people with lengthy sentences are not given an opportunity for parole, to take the positive lessons we’ve learned back to society to educate troubled youth, gang members, addicts, etc.
The equilibrium in many of our communities is out of alignment with the laws of nature. There are far too many unconscious individuals in our neighborhood who continue to promote and/or perpetuate violence and not nearly enough men and women in the midst, who’ve seen the world from this perspective for decades. We could help balance the scales if granted parole. Things have gotten so far out of hand that we are now seeing, in unprecedented numbers, a culture of gangs, drugs and violent behavior in areas once regarded as ideal locations to raise a family.
It is imperative for humankind’s sake that those with power and influence abandon the misguided mentality of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key,” because reformed, incarcerated people who’ve gained the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of what’s required to live a positive and productive lifestyle is just the antidote that needs to be injected into the veins of society. Our messages could prove to be both powerful and effective in not only changing the face of Chicago, but other areas that face similar challenges. We know the language, mentality and hardships of gangbangers, drug dealers, addicts and others with a criminal mindset. We’ve lived the lifestyles they’re living and have been where they’re headed. They’ll listen to us and tell us things they won’t share with their parents, preachers, or policemen, but no one should or can expect our voices to be heard, being muffled by these prison walls.
I have served 18 years of a 42 year sentence for accountability to murder, for the death of a drug dealer. Though I am not the actual perpetrator, I do accept a degree of responsibility, particularly for knowing better and not doing better. I for one, have earned my G.E.D., associate’s degree, and completed addictions counseling as well as becoming a certified tutor for Literacy Volunteers of America. I am a skilled upholsterer by trade and heir to a family upholstery business that I one day hope to operate while simultaneously training ex-convicts, and interested others, in learning a trade that would be conducive to securing gainful employment. I pray that I am one day granted parole so that I can spend the rest of my time on earth saving lives.
For these reasons, and more, I believe that I deserve a chance for parole.

George Frison #B-06712

Jesse Martinez by Christie Billups D.Min.

It has been my privilege to know numerous people who are incarcerated. That might strike some as a strange sentiment, but it’s really true. For instance, Jesse Martinez, having served over 20 years in prison, is an intelligent, hardworking, natural leader. During his adolescence, he used his leadership skills in unfortunate ways, and people got hurt, including himself. Our actions must always bear consequences, no question. But the concept of prison, at least at its inception, was that separating persons from the community gave the people in the community a greater sense of safety and gave the individual responsible for causing harm time to learn, grow, and change. Jesse is a transformed man, and he now has a great deal to offer his community and our collective society.

Jesse is many things: a devoted father to his now grown children, a doting grandfather when he can be to his very young grandsons, a dear friend to many, a mentor to men preparing to reenter society from prison, a student whenever possible, a teacher to men attempting to achieve a GED or pursue other studies, and a leader, now in every positive sense of the word. He is creative, persistent, hardworking, optimistic, and loyal.

Would I want Jesse to live in my community once he’s released? Absolutely! And isn’t that what we need to ask ourselves? Are men like Jesse ready to give back to society in meaningful ways? Are they ready to contribute to the well-being and thriving of the human community? No doubt about it! Jesse has been working consistently, right now through mentoring, and he takes every college course he can. He has dreams of owning a business, mentoring young men on the outside, and being able to be the father and grandfather in person that he has been longing to be. His children still need him even though they are on the cusp of adulthood; we all benefit when children have their fathers (and mothers, of course) around to guide and teach them. And any community in which Jesse is a resident and worker will be grateful to know him and work beside him. We need to recognize that people change over time. None of us wants to be frozen in the midst of our misbegotten adolescence, and few of us are required to do so. Let’s put end dates on the long sentences given during the ill-conceived mandatory sentencing era and let good men come out to give back to society. Let’s reinstate parole in Illinois!

Alfredo Ramos by Christie Billups D.Min.

It is my distinct privilege to call Alfredo Ramos my brother. I have known Fredo for over 12 years, and he has enriched my life. I met him in Cook County Jail after he had been waiting for determination on his case for six years. I was serving as a pastoral minister in Division 10 at the time. No question, Fredo had trouble letting go of the lifestyle that brought him to jail and subsequently, prison. But from the very beginning, I saw beneath the surface layers — that here was a man who had depth, the capacity for transformation, a loyalty that could bless those he loves, and an intelligence that is informed by avid reading, his stellar intuition, and self-reflection.

What are the goals and hopes of incarceration –not so much as it is carried out, but as it was designed? Women and men who are found “guilty” of their crimes, especially serious ones, must be held accountable, no question about it. But we also hope that incarceration transforms people who are confined in prison. I have seen it happen right before my eyes; Alfredo is a different man than the person I met in jail. He has endured the grueling work of leaving behind people, patterns and choices that weren’t serving him and, slowly but surely, consciously embracing habits and values that enhance his life and the lives of those around him. He has worked and studied consistently whenever offered the opportunity in prison.

I test out my advocacy for people to be granted parole through this litmus test: would I want Fredo for a neighbor? Without hesitation, I say, “Absolutely!” He has become my brother in every beautiful sense that word attempts to convey. He is joyful, grateful, loyal, thoughtful, generous and considerate. He has been there for me as much as I for him. He is hard working, fastidious, and conscientious.

I know he regrets the life he was leading and aches for the loved ones of the people he harmed. But this now nearly middle-aged man is not the impulsive, selfish teenager he once was. He is responsible and anxious to give back to society in meaningful ways, building it up and helping people and communities to heal and thrive. We need to recognize that people change over time. None of us wants to be frozen in the midst of our misbegotten adolescence, and few of us are required to do so. Let’s put end-dates on the long sentences given during the ill-conceived truth-in-sentencing era and let good men (and women) be freed to give back to society. Let’s reinstate parole in Illinois!