Pritzker Commutes Life Sentence Of Man Who Claims Burge Cops Tortured Him Into Confessing

Reed’s criminal defense attorney said he’ll continue to push to have Reed’s conviction vacated.

Reed, who’s in Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet, was convicted of the fatal shootings of Pamela Powers and Willie Williams on the South Side. Reed said he was forced to confess. He said detectives beat him so badly they dislodged a metal rod in his leg.

Those detectives worked for Burge, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2010 in connection with his testimony in a lawsuit accusing him of torture. Burge served a four-year federal prison sentence and died in September 2018.

CLICK

REDEMPTION AT STATEVILLE: Battling False Hope 4 Cookies At A Time

He did time in Pontiac. He did time in Menard. He did time in Stateville.

Those places held Smiley but they will not define him which is to say of course they will define him because how can you spend time in a place and not take a part of that place with you?

Now Smiley works at Legacy Reentry Foundation in Waukegan.

CLICK

From Roaches To Medical Emergencies, Illinois Inmates Say ‘There’s Nobody That We Can Really Go To For Help’

People locked inside prisons rely on grievances to complain if their needs, from health care to sanitation to safety, are unmet. The complaints are among their few means of recourse. But in Illinois, that system is sputtering, with little oversight, leaving prisoners vulnerable to harm.

In one case, a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center filed a grievance to complain about roaches crawling over him as he slept. He also said he had extreme pain in his ear and heard constant crackling. But he said his complaints were ignored by prison staff. Two weeks after his grievance, records show medical workers removed a bug from his ear. He later filed a lawsuit, alleging ear pain and hearing loss.

CLICK

Illinois Could Drastically Reduce Its Prison Population Without Seeing Crime Increase, New Report Says

A new study says Illinois could reduce its prison by population by 25% over the next five years without contributing to an increase in crime.

Ending mass incarceration has been the stated goal of several Illinois lawmakers and advocates. Such efforts are frequently met with concerns that fewer people behind bars will mean more crime on the streets. This new report says those concerns are unfounded.

The paper, published Friday, points to states like New York, California and Maryland, which have significantly reduced their prison populations while also seeing a drop in crime. It also notes that Illinois itself has cut down on its prison population and still seen crime go down.

CLICK

No One Should Have To Die In Prison By Joseph Dole

Every year people die in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections, the vast majority due in part to overincarceration.

COVID-19 is highlighting this fact because it is attacking the elderly and infirm, many of whom have spent decades enduring harsh prison conditions. They die lonely deaths for no other reason than incarceration politics, and in a vain attempt to satiate the insatiable appetite some people have for revenge.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others have recently voiced support for early releases of “non-violent offenders,” and insinuate that this shows they still consider public safety as the main priority. Not only is this insufficient to address mass incarceration, but if public safety is the main priority, then they should have no problem releasing “violent offenders.”

That’s because people convicted of violent offenses have lower recidivism rates and even a lower likelihood of committing violence if released.

The thousands of people currently serving long sentences are doing so due to racism, fear-mongering, dehumanization, political exploitation, and the false promise that harsher sentences are needed to deter crime.

CLICK

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

 

SHUT DOWN VIENNA

Activists and family members of people incarcerated in Vienna Correctional Center are calling on the Illinois Department of Public Health to shut down the minimum-security prison in southern Illinois.

The prison has been plagued by electrical issues, which caused intermittent power outages over several weeks in May, according to news reports.

Prison officials have relied on backup generators, which generate noxious fumes and are themselves unreliable.

The petition also claims the prison is infested with black mold and rodents in the dining halls and kitchen. These ongoing issues have made the facility dangerous, especially during a pandemic.

Activists have often called for the closure of prisons, including Stateville, Pontiac and Menard.

Vienna, which opened in November 1965, is often on the list.

CLICK

THE STIGMA OF BEING LABELED A VIOLENT OFFENDER

My brother Aaron, a violent felon, is neither my brother nor violent. The fact that these two descriptors aren’t technically accurate is basically irrelevant. In practice, they function as truth.

I was reminded of this last July when my dad called me from the county courthouse.

“How’d it go?” I asked, but I already knew it was bad news. If Aaron had been released, it would’ve been his voice on the line.

“The judge gave him 90 more days,” my dad said.

“But I thought—”

“Yeah, well. The judge agreed to that before she knew he was a violent felon.” He paused. “I saw her sentence a couple of guys to eight years. Young guys. He got lucky.” His voice was a tangle of sadness and anger and relief.

I’ve worked in criminal justice reform long enough that phrases like violent felon have largely been stripped of their emotional content. But this moment was personal, and hearing the term was jarring. For a second I thought my father must be talking about someone else.

An imprecise, capricious label handed down by the criminal justice system can mark a person for life.

CLICK

YOU’RE INVITED & NEEDED: Hope To See You There

Join us for a public hearing on the current conditions that incarcerated people are facing under the COVID-19 pandemic and how communities inside and out are building up the practices and institutions that support healthy and self-determined communities during COVID-19.

And beyond.

CLICK

HONORABLE GOAL: Less Violence This Summer

With Memorial Day weekend signaling the start of Chicago’s historically violent summer season, city agencies are banding together in an effort to tamp down shootings.

To that end, the city has opened the new Summer Operations Center — a facility staffed by employees of the Chicago Park District, CTA, CPS, and the Department of Streets and Sanitation, among others.

The facility will be housed in the city’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications in the West Loop in an effort to streamline operations and resource deployment among the various departments and the city’s emergency services. The SOC will operate from 5 p.m. Thursday until Monday morning every weekend of the summer, according to city officials.

The goal of the SOC, CPD Supt. David Brown said, is straightforward: “Reducing murders and shootings this summer.”

CLICK