An Open Letter to Governor J.B. Pritzker

Dear Governor Pritzker,

Governor J.B. Pritzker

People in Illinois prisons and jails will die in the coming weeks if the state does not take responsible action. They are living in crowded conditions with no access to soap or hand sanitizers. Medical care is costly and inadequate.

In a briefing on March 18, you said you were considering the release of people in prison for nonviolent offenses. “There are some very dangerous people who should not be considered, but there are others that are very vulnerable and who have committed some non-violent offense and who should be first in line if we were to do something like that.” These people should certainly be released.

But we have to do more. In state custody are 84 men and women who are over 70 and 684 people over 60. They are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The following individuals deserve immediate review, along with many others who are at serious risk. Arkee Chaney, 73, who has been imprisoned for 33 years as a result of three strikes legislation. Paula Fiedler, 67, who has multiple medical issues. Janet Jackson, sentenced to life for conspiring to kill her abusive husband, also with multiple medical issues. Pearl Tuma. Mason Burl. Howard Wiley. They are elderly, rehabilitated, and in need of immediate protection.

Elderly people and people with chronic health issues as well as others will die in prison because of our inaction in the face of a pandemic. Please, Governor, respond to vulnerable citizens in prison.

Bill Ryan
(on behalf of over 80 different individuals and organizations)

An Open Letter to Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Dear Cardinal Cupich,

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

We hope and pray that you are well and weathering the current storm of pandemic COVID-19 illness that has already sickened and taken so many from us. We join you in praying for all, especially our seniors and those most at risk – cancer patients, pregnant women, HIV patients, and all with compromised immune systems. As was recently noted by Illinois Department of Health Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, at a news conference with the governor, people confined to prison and nursing homes are especially at risk, because self-isolation is not an option for them.

Catholics and the Chicago community look to you and the Church for leadership and hope in this troubled time. We are asking you to join with us in asking Governor J. B. Pritzker to act to release elderly and at-risk prison inmates to the care of their families wherever possible. In most cases these are men and women who have served decades behind bars already and in no way pose a danger to society.

We are heartened by the steadfastness of Pope Francis and the Church in the struggle against the Death Penalty. Now we are challenged to save the lives of these men and women who are crammed into prisons and have no recourse except to accept their fate unless we all act.

Will you join us in appealing to Gov. Pritzker to act to release these vulnerable men and women? Thank you, and God bless you.

Sincerely yours,

Bertha Escamilla, Ted Pearson, Bill Ryan, and Armanda Shackelford
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR)
(on behalf of over 80 different individuals and organizations)

Editorial: Stateville Speaks Needs Your Help

The main goal of Stateville Speaks has always been to provide a voice to those incarcerated, especially in Illinois, by allowing a platform for them to share it through their writings. It has also allowed us to disseminate information about laws and policies that may be of concern to those on the inside.

Over the past several years Stateville Speaks has been able to operate through the generous funding of Cynthia Kobel and the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation. The newsletter has been able to be widely distributed because of her commitment to incarcerated individuals and their need to be heard. Additionally, because of her support, we have been able to provide no-cost subscriptions for any interested inmate.

Unfortunately, moving forward, Ms. Kobel and the Foundation will no longer be able to fund Stateville Speaks. Continue reading “Editorial: Stateville Speaks Needs Your Help”

The Push for Parole

Artwork by David Rivera.

By Shari Stone-Mediatore

On Thursday, November 8, 2018, the Illinois state legislature held a public hearing to discuss the issue of bringing a system of parole to Illinois. This was a subject-matter-only hearing. However, by January, Representative Rita Mayfield plans to have parole legislation ready to present and will hold another hearing to discuss that legislation.

In her introduction, Representative Mayfield indicated that she only learned there was no system of discretionary parole in Illinois during a public debate delivered by the Stateville Debate Team.

Representative Mayfield did an excellent job of chairing the hearing. Unfortunately, only a few legislators attended (probably because people are recovering from the activities of the recent election). Nonetheless, Representative Mayfield, along with co-chairs Representative LaShawn Ford and Representative Art Turner, effectively moderated the panels and asked pointed questions. Another legislator and staff-person listened attentively.

We filled the room with about 30 advocates for parole from all walks of life. We had plenty of people prepared to speak on behalf of parole; however, a few minutes before the hearing began, the legislators informed us that only 5 people would be able to present testimony on behalf of parole. Continue reading “The Push for Parole”

Save our United States Children!

By Willie Scales

Dear Parents,

Our society and justice system never take into consideration that children are not yet fully developed emotionally or psychologically and that most have not received a proper education.

From one mistake, we label them a threat and “menaces to society”. We conclude that juvenile offenders will never contribute anything worthwhile to society. But how can we make this determination against our United States youth?

Continue reading “Save our United States Children!”

The Rehabilitation Initiative

By Charles Childs

Does anyone notice what’s terribly wrong in Illinois prisons? I’ll tell you, in my opinion, not enough energy is being invested into the fight to bring back parole. There’s an inside joke that even suggests that the dominant conversations around Illinois prisons has been reduced to four main topics: 1) Does anyone know what’s for chow tonight? 2) …when we going back to commissary? 3)…what’s coming on TV tonight? And 4) …when we coming off lockdown? I disagree. However, while we’ve been distracted by whatever distractions that has been distracting us, ‘everyone else’ somehow has gained control of the narrative about us. My question is why isn’t our voice the loudest?

Continue reading “The Rehabilitation Initiative”

Why Do Incarcerated Lives Matter?

By Sherrell Towns

Incarcerated lives matter for a multitude of reasons beginning with the fact that prisoners account for and make up an absentee segment of society, while prison itself merely serves as storage space for warehousing society’s outcasts – the men and women who find themselves incarcerated.

The obvious reason incarcerated lives matter is that every sentence pronounced is neither a death sentence nor a term of natural life. Continue reading “Why Do Incarcerated Lives Matter?”

#Team Freedom Proposal Introduction

By Elbonie Burnside

This proposal is written with the concerns of the overcrowding in Illinois prisons in mind. # Team Freedom understands due to the seriousness of particular crimes a certain requirement of measures must be taken into account. However, the Illinois Constitution Article 1, Section 11 states: All penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense with the objective of returning the offender to useful citizenship. In order for the percentage of criminal activity to drop, both lawmakers and breakers need to realize that we all fall short of perfection and the human thing to do is change for the better. Continue reading “#Team Freedom Proposal Introduction”

Reformation of Our Judicial System

By Lawrence Frazier

In America, we need judicial system reform that is focused on justice and truth. When a jury makes a decision based on what turns out to be erroneous information, or perjured testimony the system is reluctant to correct the error. Every day we see examples of people with money, power, and position afforded one form of treatment within the judicial system, while the poor and disadvantaged are treated radically different. All too many African Americans know what it is like to be accused of a crime they have not committed.

In Illinois, defense lawyers, journalists and students have helped free 14 of 288 Death Row prisoners. That is an error rate (thus far) of 4.9% in cases that receive intense scrutiny. Applied to the general inmate population, that would translate to roughly 100,000 people, or enough to fill 80 prisons. If the number of prisoners who have been released in capital cases is any indication, a significant percentage of the 2 million residents of State and Federal prisons are living a nightmare. Only because no one wants to appear soft on crime, Congress and the courts emphasize bureaucracy over justice. Our penal system is littered with innocent people who do not have the resources or the influence to overturn wrongful conviction.

Continue reading “Reformation of Our Judicial System”