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)