Counting All Political Prisoners

When we think of “political prisoner,” we usually have in mind someone imprisoned either for their political beliefs or their anti-government activity.

In the United States today, very few people are recognized as being political prisoners. In reality, there are tens of thousands who should be recognized as such; not because of their political beliefs or actions, but because their continued incarceration is due to being exploited for political gain by politicians, prosecutors, and judges.

They may not start out as political prisoners, but they become political prisoners when they continue to be incarcerated beyond any justification and are refused release simply due to political calculations.

Tough-On-Crime rhetoric and false claims about the deterrent power of harsher sentences have been used by politicians for over four decades to get elected.

Joseph Dole Is An Incarcerated Writer, Co-Founder & Policy Director Of Parole Illinois

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7 Guiding Principles

J.B. Pritzker announced 7 guiding principles to build a more equitable criminal justice system.

“We cannot truly have justice without equity and opportunity. These principles will guide us on a path of repairing the historic harm caused by our justice system, especially in Black and Brown communities. Comprehensive justice reform will help to reverse the systemic cycles that tear apart families, lay barren communities, lead to overcrowded jails, put strains on criminal justice infrastructure, and burden taxpayers.”

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Equitable Criminal Justice System

Governor JB Pritzker today proposed 7 guiding principles…

• End the use of the cash bail system and limit pretrial detention to only those who are a threat to public safety.

• Modernize sentencing laws on theft and drug offenses and use a public health approach to address mental health and addiction.

• Reduce excessive lengths of stay in prison by providing pathways for people to earn opportunities for rehabilitation.

• Prioritize rehabilitation and reduce the risk of recidivism by increasing access to housing and healthcare for returning residents.

• Increase police accountability and transparency for police officers and police departments.

• Update and strengthen statewide standards for use of force by police officers.

• Improve interactions with police by decriminalizing minor non-violent offenses, improving police response to crowd control, and increasing language and disability access.

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SB3233, Earned Discretionary Release Bill (Full Text)

Synopsis:

Amends the Unified Code of Corrections.  Provides that notwithstanding to the contrary any provision of the Code, the Post-Conviction Hearing Article of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, the Habeas Corpus Article of the Code of Civil Procedure, or the relief from judgments provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, a person serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and a parole hearing after serving a term of imprisonment of 20 years. Provides that a person serving a term of natural life imprisonment is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and a parole hearing after serving a term of imprisonment of 20 years. Deletes provision that no person serving a term of natural life imprisonment may be paroled or released except through executive clemency.  Contains a severability provision. Provides that this statute is to apply retroactively to every person currently serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility, which is necessary in order to serve important public purposes, including, but not limited to, providing a means for incarcerated individuals to become contributing members of society and decreasing the rising costs of funding the Department of Corrections institution and facilities.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: 

Section 5. The Unified Code of Corrections is amended by changing Sections 3-3-3 and 3-5-1 and by adding Section 3-3-3.1 as follows: 

(730 ILCS 5/3-3-3) 

(from Ch. 38, par. 1003-3-3)Sec. 3-3-3. Eligibility for parole or release. 

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1 and exceptExcept for those offenders who accept the fixed release date established by the Prisoner Review Board under Section 3-3-2.1, every person serving a term of imprisonment under the law in effect prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1977 shall be eligible for parole when he or she has served: 

  1. the minimum term of an indeterminate sentence less time credit for good behavior, or 20 years less time credit for good behavior, whichever is less; or 
  2. 20 years of a life sentence less time credit for good behavior; or 
  3. 20 years or one-third of a determinate sentence, whichever is less, less time credit for good behavior. 

(b)Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1, no No person sentenced under this amendatory Act of 1977 or who accepts a release date under Section 3-3-2.1 shall be eligible for parole. 

(c) Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1 and exceptExcept for those sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment, every person sentenced to imprisonment under this amendatory Act of 1977 or given a release date under Section 3-3-2.1 of this Act shall serve the full term of a determinate sentence less time credit for good behavior and shall then be released under the mandatory supervised release provisions of paragraph (d) of Section 5-8-1 of this Code. 

(d) (Blank).No person serving a term of natural life imprisonment may be paroled or released except through executive clemency. 

(e) Every person committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 and confined in the State correctional institutions or facilities if such juvenile has not been tried as an adult shall be eligible for aftercare release under Section 3-2.5-85 of this Code. However, if a juvenile has been tried as an adult he or she shall only be eligible for parole or mandatory supervised release as an adult under this Section. 

(Source: P.A. 98-558, eff. 1-1-14; 99-628, eff. 1-1-17.) 

(730 ILCS 5/3-3-3.1 new)Sec. 3-3-3.1. Earned Discretionary Release; parole hearings; sentences of 20 years or longer; life imprisonment; early release. 

(a) Notwithstanding to the contrary any provision of this Code, Article 122 of the Code of Criminal 

Procedure of 1963, Article X of the Code of Civil Procedure, or Section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a person serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release (EDR) and a parole (EDR) hearings under this Article if he or she has served the a term of imprisonment of at least 20 years.

A person serving a term of natural life imprisonment is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and EDR hearings under this Article after serving a term of imprisonment of at least 20 years. A person seeking early release under this Section may petition the Prisoner Review Board in the same manner as a person eligible for parole under Section 3-3-2.1 of this Code and the EDR hearing(s) shall be conducted as otherwise provided in this Article and the Open Parole Hearings Act unless otherwise provided in this Section. 

 (b) On the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly, prior evidence of the petitioner’s participation in rehabilitative programs shall be added to the petitioner’s master record file under Section 3-5-1 and shall be considered at the petitioner’s EDR hearing(s). 

 (c) A committed person described in this Section may not be barred from rehabilitative programming because his or her anticipated release is not in the near future.  

(d) Every committed person described in this Section shall have the right to legal representation at his or her EDR hearing(s). If the committed person cannot afford legal counsel, free legal service representatives may be utilized.   

(e) Every committed person described in this Section may attend and testify at his or he EDR hearing(s).    

(f) Every committed person described in this Section, shall be provided full and complete access to his or her master record file at least 60 days prior to any EDR hearing(s). The committed person has a right to challenge any false, misleading, or otherwise inaccurate information contained therein. The Department of Corrections shall establish an expedited process for committed persons to challenge such false, misleading, or otherwise inaccurate information so that it can be removed prior to any EDR hearing(s). Every committed person described in this section may have counsel assist them in challenging inaccurate information. 

(g) Nothing in this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly guarantees release. It only guarantees the opportunity of the committed person to present evidence at his or her EDR hearing(s) to demonstrate his or her rehabilitation before the Prisoner Review Board and to seek Earned Discretionary Release. 

(h) If any committed person is released on Earned Discretionary release, his or her sentence will be considered complete after the term of Mandatory Supervised Release. 

(i) When a petitioner’s request for EDR under this Section is denied, the petitioner is eligible to reapply for EDR no later than 2 years after the denial.

(j) This section applies retroactively to every person currently serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility, which is necessary in order to serve important public purposes, including, but not limited to, providing a means for incarcerated individuals to become contributing members of society and decreasing the rising costs of funding the Department of Corrections institutions and facilities. 

(730 ILCS 5/3-5-1) 

(from Ch. 38, par. 1003-5-1)Sec. 3-5-1. Master Record File. 

(a) The Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice shall maintain a master record file on each person committed to it, which shall contain the following information: 

  1. all information from the committing court; 

(1.5) ethnic and racial background data collected in accordance with Section 4.5 of the Criminal 

Identification Act; 

  1. reception summary; 
  2. evaluation and assignment reports and recommendations; 
  3. reports as to program assignment and progress; 
  4. reports of disciplinary infractions and disposition, including tickets and Administrative Review Board action; 
  5. any parole or aftercare release plan; 
  6. any parole or aftercare release reports; 
  7. the date and circumstances of final discharge; 
  8. criminal history; 
  9. current and past gang affiliations and ranks; 
  10. information regarding associations and family relationships; 
  11. any grievances filed and responses to those grievances; and 
  12. other information that the respective Department determines is relevant to the secure confinement and rehabilitation of the committed person. 

(b) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (n) of Section 3-3-3.l, allAll files shall be confidential and access shall be limited to authorized personnel of the respective Department. Personnel of other correctional, welfare or law enforcement agencies may have access to files under rules and regulations of the respective Department. The respective Department shall keep a record of all outside personnel who have access to files, the files reviewed, any file material copied, and the purpose of access. If the respective Department or the Prisoner Review Board makes a determination under this Code which affects the length of the period of confinement or commitment, the committed person and his counsel shall be advised of factual information relied upon by the respective Department or Board to make the determination, provided that the Department or Board shall not be required to advise a person committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice any such information which in the opinion of the Department of Juvenile Justice or Board would be detrimental to his treatment or rehabilitation. 

(c) The master file shall be maintained at a place convenient to its use by personnel of the respective Department in charge of the person. When custody of a person is transferred from the Department to another department or agency, a summary of the file shall be forwarded to the receiving agency with such other information required by law or requested by the agency under rules and regulations of the respective Department. 

(d) The master file of a person no longer in the custody of the respective Department shall be placed on inactive status and its use shall be restricted subject to rules and regulations of the Department. 

(e) All public agencies may make available to the respective Department on request any factual data not otherwise privileged as a matter of law in their possession in respect to individuals committed to the respective Department. 

(Source: P.A. 97-696, eff. 6-22-12; 98-528, eff. 1-1-15; 98-558, eff. 1-1-14; 98-756, eff. 7-16-14.) 

Section 97. Severability. The provisions of this Act are severable under Section 1.31 of the Statute on Statutes. 

Candidate Survey: Action Needed

Elections matter when it comes to reforming our criminal legal system.

Restore Justice Illinois sent out its first candidate survey for all Illinois General Assembly and state’s attorney offices.

Do you want to find out how people running feel about important issues? Issues related to the criminal legal system? Including sentencing? And prison condition issues?

If so, we need your help to make sure candidates actually fill it out…

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Senate Bill 3233

Synopsis:

Amends the Unified Code of Corrections.  Provides that notwithstanding to the contrary any provision of the Code, the Post-Conviction Hearing Article of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, the Habeas Corpus Article of the Code of Civil Procedure, or the relief from judgments provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, a person serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and a parole hearing after serving a term of imprisonment of 20 years. Provides that a person serving a term of natural life imprisonment is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and a parole hearing after serving a term of imprisonment of 20 years. Deletes provision that no person serving a term of natural life imprisonment may be paroled or released except through executive clemency.  Contains a severability provision. Provides that this statute is to apply retroactively to every person currently serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility, which is necessary in order to serve important public purposes, including, but not limited to, providing a means for incarcerated individuals to become contributing members of society and decreasing the rising costs of funding the Department of Corrections institution and facilities.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: 

Section 5. The Unified Code of Corrections is amended by changing Sections 3-3-3 and 3-5-1 and by adding Section 3-3-3.1 as follows: 

(730 ILCS 5/3-3-3) 

(from Ch. 38, par. 1003-3-3)Sec. 3-3-3. Eligibility for parole or release. 

(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1 and exceptExcept for those offenders who accept the fixed release date established by the Prisoner Review Board under Section 3-3-2.1, every person serving a term of imprisonment under the law in effect prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1977 shall be eligible for parole when he or she has served: 

  1. the minimum term of an indeterminate sentence less time credit for good behavior, or 20 years less time credit for good behavior, whichever is less; or 
  2. 20 years of a life sentence less time credit for good behavior; or 
  3. 20 years or one-third of a determinate sentence, whichever is less, less time credit for good behavior. 

(b)Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1, no Noperson sentenced under this amendatory Act of 1977 or who accepts a release date under Section 3-3-2.1 shall be eligible for parole. 

(c) Except as otherwise provided in Section 3-3-3.1 and exceptExcept for those sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment, every person sentenced to imprisonment under this amendatory Act of 1977 or given a release date under Section 3-3-2.1 of this Act shall serve the full term of a determinate sentence less time credit for good behavior and shall then be released under the mandatory supervised release provisions of paragraph (d) of Section 5-8-1 of this Code. 

(d) No person serving a term of natural life imprisonment may be paroled or released except through executive clemency. 

(e) Every person committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 and confined in the State correctional institutions or facilities if such juvenile has not been tried as an adult shall be eligible for aftercare release under Section 3-2.5-85 of this Code. However, if a juvenile has been tried as an adult he or she shall only be eligible for parole or mandatory supervised release as an adult under this Section. 

(Source: P.A. 98-558, eff. 1-1-14; 99-628, eff. 1-1-17.) 

(730 ILCS 5/3-3-3.1 new)Sec. 3-3-3.1. Earned Discretionary Release; parole hearings; sentences of 20 years or longer; life imprisonment; early release. 

(a) Notwithstanding to the contrary any provision of this Code, Article 122 of the Code of Criminal 

Procedure of 1963, Article X of the Code of Civil Procedure, or Section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a person serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release (EDR) and a parole (EDR) hearings under this Article if he or she has served the a term of imprisonment of at least 20 years.

A person serving a term of natural life imprisonment is eligible for Earned Discretionary Release and EDR hearings under this Article after serving a term of imprisonment of at least 20 years. A person seeking early release under this Section may petition the Prisoner Review Board in the same manner as a person eligible for parole under Section 3-3-2.1 of this Code and the EDR hearing(s) shall be conducted as otherwise provided in this Article and the Open Parole Hearings Act unless otherwise provided in this Section. 

 (b) On the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly, prior evidence of the petitioner’s participation in rehabilitative programs shall be added to the petitioner’s master record file under Section 3-5-1 and shall be considered at the petitioner’s EDR hearing(s). 

 (c) A committed person described in this Section may not be barred from rehabilitative programming because his or her anticipated release is not in the near future.  

(d) Every committed person described in this Section shall have the right to legal representation at his or her EDR hearing(s). If the committed person cannot afford legal counsel, free legal service representatives may be utilized.   

(e) Every committed person described in this Section may attend and testify at his or he EDR hearing(s).    

(f) Every committed person described in this Section, shall be provided full and complete access to his or her master record file at least 60 days prior to any EDR hearing(s). The committed person has a right to challenge any false, misleading, or otherwise inaccurate information contained therein. The Department of Corrections shall establish an expedited process for committed persons to challenge such false, misleading, or otherwise inaccurate information so that it can be removed prior to any EDR hearing(s). Every committed person described in this section may have counsel assist them in challenging inaccurate information. 

(g) Nothing in this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly guarantees release. It only guarantees the opportunity of the committed person to present evidence at his or her EDR hearing(s) to demonstrate his or her rehabilitation before the Prisoner Review Board and to seek Earned Discretionary Release. 

(h) If any committed person is released on Earned Discretionary release, his or her sentence will be considered complete after the term of Mandatory Supervised Release. 

(i) When a petitioner’s request for EDR under this Section is denied, the petitioner is eligible to reapply for EDR no later than 2 years after the denial.

(j) This section applies retroactively to every person currently serving a term of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility, which is necessary in order to serve important public purposes, including, but not limited to, providing a means for incarcerated individuals to become contributing members of society and decreasing the rising costs of funding the Department of Corrections institutions and facilities. 

(730 ILCS 5/3-5-1) 

(from Ch. 38, par. 1003-5-1)Sec. 3-5-1. Master Record File. 

(a) The Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice shall maintain a master record file on each person committed to it, which shall contain the following information: 

  1. all information from the committing court; 

(1.5) ethnic and racial background data collected in accordance with Section 4.5 of the Criminal 

Identification Act; 

  1. reception summary; 
  2. evaluation and assignment reports and recommendations; 
  3. reports as to program assignment and progress; 
  4. reports of disciplinary infractions and disposition, including tickets and Administrative Review Board action; 
  5. any parole or aftercare release plan; 
  6. any parole or aftercare release reports; 
  7. the date and circumstances of final discharge; 
  8. criminal history; 
  9. current and past gang affiliations and ranks; 
  10. information regarding associations and family relationships; 
  11. any grievances filed and responses to those grievances; and 
  12. other information that the respective Department determines is relevant to the secure confinement and rehabilitation of the committed person. 

(b) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (n) of Section 3-3-3.l, allAll files shall be confidential and access shall be limited to authorized personnel of the respective Department. Personnel of other correctional, welfare or law enforcement agencies may have access to files under rules and regulations of the respective Department. The respective Department shall keep a record of all outside personnel who have access to files, the files reviewed, any file material copied, and the purpose of access. If the respective Department or the Prisoner Review Board makes a determination under this Code which affects the length of the period of confinement or commitment, the committed person and his counsel shall be advised of factual information relied upon by the respective Department or Board to make the determination, provided that the Department or Board shall not be required to advise a person committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice any such information which in the opinion of the Department of Juvenile Justice or Board would be detrimental to his treatment or rehabilitation. 

(c) The master file shall be maintained at a place convenient to its use by personnel of the respective Department in charge of the person. When custody of a person is transferred from the Department to another department or agency, a summary of the file shall be forwarded to the receiving agency with such other information required by law or requested by the agency under rules and regulations of the respective Department. 

(d) The master file of a person no longer in the custody of the respective Department shall be placed on inactive status and its use shall be restricted subject to rules and regulations of the Department. 

(e) All public agencies may make available to the respective Department on request any factual data not otherwise privileged as a matter of law in their possession in respect to individuals committed to the respective Department. 

(Source: P.A. 97-696, eff. 6-22-12; 98-528, eff. 1-1-15; 98-558, eff. 1-1-14; 98-756, eff. 7-16-14.) 

Section 97. Severability. The provisions of this Act are severable under Section 1.31 of the Statute on Statutes. 

Landmark Decision

The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a landmark decision that a 41-year sentence for a juvenile offender constitutes the equivalent of a life term.

The decision triggers sentencing protections for juvenile offenders who are sentenced to more than 40 years in prison.

“We should be concerned about how long you have to spend in prison for what you did, despite the fact that you were so willing to give someone else a death sentence.”

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Iowa Ends Lifetime Voting Ban On People With Felony Convictions

Iowa’s governor signed an executive order ending the state’s lifetime voting ban for anyone with a felony conviction, a historic move because Iowa was the only state in the country enforcing such a severe policy.

The order from Kim Reynolds allows people with felony convictions to vote once they complete their sentences, including parole and probation.

“Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances and the need to address inequalities in our justice system. The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live.”

“When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically.”

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End Death By Incarceration Art Show & Contest

Please vote for your favorite piece in each of the categories – Artists in Prison and Artists in Solidarity – vote by October 7th.

Winners will be announced by October 15th.

We extended the deadline until September 30th for incarcerated artists with the caveat that the sooner they get their pieces in the more chances they have for votes.

Because of Covid we had more trouble getting the word out as people in prison were more restricted from each other so they couldn’t as easily pass the word along.

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