Ohio is expanding access to parole hearings for people who have been incarcerated ever since they were children. It will no longer sentence minors to life without the possibility of parole, and it will significantly curtail sentences that effectively amount to the same.
Youth justice advocates are celebrating Senate Bill 256, which was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on Saturday, as their latest win in nationwide efforts to keep kids from spending their life in prison.
My brother, Billie Allen, has been fighting for his life on two fronts.
He has waged the first of these fights from federal death row, against a legal system that was not designed to find truth or enact real justice. He has waged the second fight from hospital beds, plagued by health issues that affect his very ability to prove his innocence.
As Billie’s sister—and his best friend—I am more than a witness. My brother’s fight is my fight. His loss of freedom is mine.
My fear has increased sharply these last months as both of my brother’s fights took a dangerous turn. As the lame-duck Trump administration continues its race to kill as many people on death row as it can before the inauguration—10 people on federal death row have been executed in less than six months, with three more execution dates scheduled before January 20—Billie’s name could be called at any time. And on December 16, as Covid-19 continued to rip through prisons, including federal death row, I received a phone call from my brother: Billie had tested positive for the virus.
When I heard the news, my stomach sank.
State Representative La Shawn K. Ford hosts a virtual town hall to discuss state prison conditions during COVID-19.
This town hall is a chance to convey concerns about the Illinois Department of Corrections.
When: Monday, January 11, 2021
Time: 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
People incarcerated in Illinois will be among those vaccinated against coronavirus during the next phase, according to a newly released state plan.
People incarcerated in jails and prisons will be prioritized for vaccines along with people who are 65 and older, certain essential workers and people experiencing homelessness or residing in shelters.
They’ll all be given access to vaccines during the next phase, know as Phase 1B.
But it will be several weeks, if not months, before Phase 1B of vaccinations start. The state is currently focused on vaccinating health care workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes.
People detained in Cook County Jail awaiting trial will be among those vaccinated during Phase 1B.
Jails have become petri dishes for COVID-19.
The majority of people in jail have not been convicted of a crime, yet they are being exposed to the coronavirus. Those who cycle in and out of jails are also taking COVID-19 back into their homes, infecting Black, brown, and poor white communities.
There are almost 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, the majority in state and federal prisons where people serve sentences of one year or longer, and turnover is slow. Yet in county jails where people serve short stints, there are more than ten million admittances every year, making it even more important to contain the spread of COVID-19 there. President-elect Joe Biden’s plan for the pandemic includes no mention of jails or prisons.
Even in the face of a global pandemic, the United States remains deeply wedded to mass incarceration.
Governor J.B. Pritzker closed out 2020 by expunging nearly 500,000 non-felony cannabis-related records, an action mandated by Illinois’ marijuana legalization law that went into effect a year ago.
As part of the action, the governor also pardoned 9,219 low-level cannabis conviction records, part of the state’s efforts to repair the damage inflicted by the war on drugs ― primarily on residents of color.
“We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of the damage in communities of color, who have disproportionately shouldered this burden,” Pritzker said. “But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past — and the decency to set a better path forward.”
Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized cannabis in the state, required the government to expunge 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records created between 2013 and 2019 by Jan. 1, 2021.
In a unique twist, the law also created a program that reinvests 25% of cannabis tax revenue into a fund for youth development, anti-violence programs, re-entry programs, economic development and civil legal aid services.
Give the gift of resources this holiday season!
Parole Illinois is pushing for policy changes that help reverse cycles of violence and incarceration and give people like Janet a fair chance to be reviewed for release.
With your help, we can bring their stories to a wider audience and gain support for a system of Earned Discretionary Reentry that provides our loved ones opportunities to finally come home.
You can support us by making a donation.