End Death By Incarceration in Illinois

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The COVID-19 crisis in U.S. prisons has shone a light on the horrific conditions and overcrowding that have turned many prisons into death traps. But it is only a reminder of the fate of many people incarcerated in Illinois who face death-by-incarceration every year, due to decades of extreme and inhumane sentencing policies.

Victims of crime, convicted people, and their loved ones all suffer when people are locked up for years beyond the needs of public safety. Nearly every other state has mechanisms to release long-term incarcerated individuals who are ready to rejoin society. Illinois does not. If nothing changes, over 5,000 Illinoisans will be required to grow old and die in prison.

We stand with Parole Illinois, a coalition of activists inside and outside of prison dedicated to reversing the harms of extreme sentencing, in urging you to support Illinois Senate Bill 3233 (SB3233), Earned Discretionary Release.

Sponsored by State Senators Celina Villanueva (D) and Robert Peters (D), Earned Discretionary Release (SB3233) takes a crucial step toward healing our communities by establishing the state’s first fair and inclusive system of Earned Discretionary Release (EDR). It also gives every incarcerated Illinoisan the right to rehabilitative programming and requires that any needs-assessment tools be periodically reviewed for bias. 

Earned Discretionary Release (SB3233) would not let everyone out. It would, however, ensure that no person is warehoused and forgotten about without at least having fair opportunities to return home. It thereby gives incarcerated Illinoisans incentive to improve their lives and paths to productive return to society.

Earned Discretionary Release provides relief for victims of racial bias. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. But the same biases that plagued implementation of the death penalty continue to infect long-term sentences. In fact, while Black people comprise only 15% of Illinois’ population, they make up 68% of the people sentenced to spend the remainder of their lives in prison

Earned Discretionary Release makes good financial sense. Experts agree that we would save millions of dollars with very little risk to public safety by releasing people before they become elderly and infirm and when they still can be productive members of society.  

Most importantly, Earned Discretionary Release (SB3233) would give hope to the many family and loved ones of people incarcerated across Illinois that their mothers, fathers, children, and loved ones can finally have a fair chance of coming home.

We urge you to take a bold stance for rehabilitation and redemption and make Illinois a model of community healing by passing SB3233, Earned Discretionary Release. 

Sincerely, 

Parole Illinois

Over 40 community organizations in Illinois have endorsed the bill (list in formation): 

Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF)
Uptown People's Law Center
Black and Pink Chicago 
Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD)
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICCIRR)
Liberation Library 
Grassroots Collaborative
MAMAS (Mothers Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity)
Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (IL-CHEP)
Freedom To Learn Illinois
Chicago Votes
BPI Chicago
#LetUsBreathe
Soapbox Productions and Organizing
Chicago 400 Alliance
Good Kids Mad City 
Chicago Books to Women in Prison
Judicial Accountability PAC
Faith In Place Action Fund
Indivisible Illinois
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation

To see the full list of endorsing organization, visit paroleillinois.org/letter. If your organization would like to sign on to endorse, please email paroleillinois@gmail.com to be added. 

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Parole Illinois is a coalition of people inside and outside of prison who are raising awareness about inhumane sentencing policies in our state. We believe in the power of redemption and transformation; and that it is inhumane to order people to spend decades in prison until they die there without any periodic assessment of whether such sentences are necessary for public safety.

The bill can be found here. More information about the bill can be found here.