Renaldo Hudson has been in prison for 29 years, more than half of his life. Over-sentenced as a young man, Renaldo is a remarkable human being who poses no threat to society. His supporters include prominent victims’ rights advocates, human rights activists, and individuals from across the political spectrum.
Who He Was
As a child, Renaldo had no positive guidance. He lived in poverty and endured severe mental and physical abuse from those around him. His mother abandoned him when he was one year old. His father lost custody of him when he was thirteen, and Renaldo was shuttled from one family member to another. As a child he experienced two extremely violent and traumatic events. First, he witnessed the death of his twin brother who fell down a flight of stairs. Then, at 15, his oldest brother went on a shooting rampage, wounding Renaldo in the chest at point-blank range, injuring four family members, and killing two others. Renaldo spent one month in the hospital recovering from his gun shot wounds.
Without any intervention or advocacy, Renaldo dropped out of school and turned to gangs, drugs, and alcohol. At 19 years old, in the course of a burglary, Mr. Hudson stabbed to death an elderly man. In his first court appearance, the judge declared a mistrial due to mental incompetence. With inadequate counsel at his second trial, Renaldo was convicted and sentenced to die. Given his age and mental capability, Renaldo was clearly over-sentenced.
Renaldo served 16 years on death row before Governor Ryan commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in 2003. Renaldo is now imprisoned at Danville Correctional Center.
Who He Is Now
Renaldo has transformed his life, and he takes full responsibility for his criminal past. He admits, “I am the person responsible for the death of Mr. Peterson. I’m sorry and very remorseful. Mr. Peterson deserved much better than my horrendous actions.”
Renaldo has managed to overcome extraordinary odds to become an educated, inspiring leader. His betterment through education and his ability to influence others are well-documented. His remorse, sincerity, and deep faith are evident to all who know him.
Years ago, Renaldo withdrew all legal appeals, explaining, “I no longer want to waste the court’s time with legal tactics. There are many in prison that better deserve the court’s time.”
His accomplishments are many and ongoing:
• Advanced from functional illiteracy to an Associate Arts degree.
• Became a model inmate without a demerit or infraction in over 18 years.
• Transferred from maximum to Level 3 medium security prison.
• Renounced gangs, drugs, and alcohol.
• Completed anger management and commercial custodial certificates and courses.
• Received certification as a Substance Abuse Counselor.
• Received Illinois certification as an Associate Addictions Professional (#30297).
• Ordained as a Minister of the Universal Life Church.
• Became a peer educator and tutor for the inmate population, including as an HIV instructor; physical and psychological abuse counselor; and “Staying out of Prison 101” tutor.
• Founded the prison paper Stateville Speaks and initiated a prisoner essay contest that focused on self-improvement and resulted in the publication of the book, Lockdown Prison Heart. Book proceeds are donated to Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.
• Continues to pursue his spiritual ministry, studying the scriptures in Greek and Hebrew.
What Awaits Him
Renaldo's many supporters include prominent victims’ rights advocates, human rights activists, and individuals from across the political spectrum. His supporters are ready to offer him a home, a job, and assistance with his continuing education. He would have ample and loving support if he were released.
Renaldo has contributed in innumerable ways to those who live and work in prisons. It is time to move his contributions and his vision outside those walls. We are hopeful that the Prison Review Board will lessen his sentence to an appropriate time or recommend clemency.
Thank you for considering this petition in support of clemency for Renaldo Hudson.