Compassionate Release

In compassionate release cases, judges have to decide if an inmate’s situation presents “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to reduce their prison sentence.

In some cases reviewed, judges found that an inmate’s medical conditions met the standard given the pandemic.

Judges are making medical assessments about how much of a threat COVID-19 poses to an individual inmate and then deciding how to balance that against the public safety risk of sending that person back into the community; inmates are usually released to home confinement or under the supervision of a probation officer.

And judges are reaching different conclusions about how to measure an inmate’s risk of exposure in state and federal prisons, which have seen some of the worst clusters of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

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Hunger Strike At Vienna Prison

1. Release on medical furlough anyone with physical conditions making them vulnerable to death by COVID until such time as authorities deem the threat from the virus is over. Illinois abolished the death penalty: no one should be given a death sentence by Covid-19.

2.  Restore the 180 days earned discretionary credits of Good Time where eligible.

3. Release anyone over 55 with less than a year on their sentence.

4. Release anyone within three months of their sentence completion.

5. All releases should have the least restrictive conditions possible, so as to allow those released to be able to seek medical attention and contribute to family finances.

6. Provide testing for all prisoners who want to be tested, and regularly test all staff. Combine this with robust contact tracing, when anyone tests positive. Make the test results public, including number of tests, number  of positive/negative/pending, and deaths.

7. Stop quarantining sick people in solitary confinement cells, and house them in a setting such as the health care unit where they can be observed and receive any needed medical  treatment on a timely basis.

8. Close down prisons, like Vienna, that can no longer be run as a safe institution.

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Ear Hustle Podcast: Summer Listening

Ear Hustle Podcast talks with people experiencing the COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin, and other California prisons, firsthand.

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Reality Winner Tests Positive For COVID-19

Former intelligence contractor and whistleblower Reality Winner has tested positive for COVID-19.

Winner is currently incarcerated in a Federal Medical Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where an outbreak has sickened hundreds of inmates and killed at least two.

Winner is seeking compassionate release during the coronavirus pandemic, citing underlying medical conditions.

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They Are Burying Us Alive In Prison By Raul Dorado

There are many ways to come to prison.

You could have been raised in a segregated high-rise ghetto, removed from mainstream society and cut off from participation in the legal economy. Or you could just have been born black.

If you inhabit a black body, you’re nearly six times more likely than whites to be imprisoned, and if you reside in a brown body, you’re three times more likely to be imprisoned.

Covid-19 came to Stateville, undetected, in the bodies of the prison guards who have direct custody of us.

Prisons are long-term care facilities, but without the actual care. Just over four decades ago, Illinois fell in line behind a national trend to abandon the goal of rehabilitation in favor of punitive sentencing practices.

These practices lay the foundation of today’s overcrowded prisons that have not spared the elderly prisoner population bearing the brunt of Covid-19.

Our group is supporting a bill in the Illinois legislature, SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release.

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Raul Dorado Is An Incarcerated Writer & Co-Founder Of Parole Illinois

1 in 6 Chicago Cases Of COVID-19 Traced To Cook County Jail

New research found nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail.

At one point dubbed the “largest-known source” of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

According to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, cycling through Cook County Jail is associated with 15.7% of all documented cases of the virus in Illinois and 15.9% in Chicago through mid-April.

“As the pandemic began, I realized this was going to be a huge driver,” said Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report.

“The jail cycle – arresting people, cycling through the jail and back into their communities – was going to be a huge driver of COVID-19 spreading to communities.”

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We Join The Chorus Urging Governor Pritzker To Ease Housing Based Restrictions

A coalition of 50 local and national criminal justice reform organizations, led by the Chicago 400 Alliance, is calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions for the duration of the pandemic.

The move would allow people who have completed their sentences to finally leave prison.

“We’ve been working on this issue for years,” said alliance coordinator Laurie Jo Reynolds, “but now it’s a matter of life and death.”

Criminal justice reform organizations are calling on Gov. Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions so hundreds of people can finally be released.

She is hoping the governor will issue an executive order.

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Prison Reform Sparked By A Mixtape

When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic in March, the world went into frenzies and lockdowns.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 began to ravage through California’s San Quentin State Prison.

Then in May, San Quentin Mixtapes, Vol. 1 dropped: a 17-track album that was written, recorded and produced within the prison’s walls.

David Jassy is at the heart of the Youthful Offender Program Mixtape Project. In 2010, the Grammy-nominated producer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced 15 years to life.

Jassy kept music with him as much as he could throughout transfers between prisons. Once he got his hands on a keyboard in San Quentin, he started making beats.

His music was contagious there.

“Regardless of what set or gang they belong to, I just seen how fascinated they were about music and how they all lit up,” Jassy said. “People started smiling. If they heard somebody that was a dope rapper, they just all started smiling and nodding along and encouraging each other. And, it was different. I just knew this was a different energy from everything else that was going on in prison.”

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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.

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

 

Governor Pritzker Call Governor Newsom

California will release up to 8,000 people from state prisons to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Officials on Friday announced three separate efforts, approved by the governor, Gavin Newsom, that they say will decrease the prison population by 8,ooo by the end of August.

The measures mark the largest release efforts the state administration has taken since Covid-19 began to circulate among prison staff and incarcerated people.

“We are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that was created and wholly avoidable,” said the California assembly member Rob Bonta at a press conference in front of San Quentin state prison.

“We need to act with urgency fueled by compassion,” he added. “We missed the opportunity to prevent, so now we have to make things right.”

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