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Fall 2021 Newsletter

Fall 2021 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

The Illinois General Assembly recently wrapped up the fall Veto Session in Springfield on October 28. While the Veto session is officially just a short opportunity for the legislature to reconsider any measure that the Governor vetoed, it is also an opportunity to continue to push legislation that wasn’t called during the spring session. Since there were no vetoed items that needed to be considered this year, the General Assembly spent time working on other issues. 

During the Veto Session, the General Assembly passed a couple of criminal legal-related bills that you can read more about in this newsletter. Most of the Veto Session was spent on non criminal-legal related issues, however, such as revising redistricting maps for U.S. Congressional districts in Illinois, repealing the parental notice rule for youth who seek an abortion, creating tax incentives for the electric vehicle industry, allowing in-state college sports betting, and creating a licensing system for midwives.

The Illinois General Assembly is now adjourned (off-duty) until the next regular session begins on January 4, 2022. The House and Senate plan to have a shorter session lasting only three months (normally, they meet for five months each year, beginning in January). This will allow state legislators to spend more time in their districts campaigning for the primary election, which was postponed this year from its usual March date to be held on June 28, 2022.

In the newsletter below, we include an overview of how a bill becomes a law, a recap of how you and/or your loved ones can get involved, updates on bills that may interest you, summaries of recent Illinois Supreme Court decisions, answers to some of your frequently asked questions, and updates from our team. 

HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW IN ILLINOIS

The Illinois General Assembly, which includes the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives, usually convenes in Springfield during two periods each year.

The first period is known as the “regular session” and takes place from January through May. Generally, bills considered during the regular session need only a simple majority vote to pass. That means it takes 30 votes in the state Senate and 60 votes in the state House for a bill to pass. Most legislators try to get their bills passed during this time.

The second period or “veto” session” happens for two weeks in October and November. The first order of business during this time is often bills which the Governor vetoed over the summer. However, the House and Senate can, and often do, take up new items. It is harder to pass a bill with an immediate effective date during the veto session because it requires a supermajority vote to pass in each chamber; that is, 36 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House.

Bills can originate in either chamber (Senate or House). If a state senator introduces a bill in the State Senate and it passes, it goes to the House. If a state representative introduces a bill in the House and it passes, it then goes to the Senate. Along the way, a bill is considered in each chamber by a committee that invites expert witnesses to hearings and reviews relevant research. 

Once a bill passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor. The Governor then has four options: sign the bill into law; do nothing, in which case the bill automatically becomes a law after a certain period; reject the bill entirely (this is a “veto”); or issue an “amendatory veto” to suggest a small change to the bill. If the Governor vetoes a bill or does an amendatory veto, legislators can reconsider the bill during veto session.

HOW YOU AND/OR YOUR LOVED ONES CAN GET INVOLVED 

Ask your Family and Friends to join our Advocacy Team. Our Advocacy Team receives weekly updates and meets via Zoom on Friday mornings during the spring legislative session. Our Team members are asked to contact their state legislators to support the legislation we are working on. This has proven to be highly effective because lawmakers appreciate hearing directly from their constituents. We hope all of your family and friends will join. They can join the “team” and find more information by visiting our website at: https://restorejusticeillinois.org and clicking on “Join Our Legislative Advocacy Team.”  .

Natalie Mason has joined the Office of Constituent Services as IDOC’s Family Liaison. In this role, Ms. Mason manages communication between IDOC and the families of incarcerated individuals. Please let us know if you have had any interactions with Ms. Mason’s office. We are collecting information about interactions with the office so we can be useful in making it work for families. Your loved ones can reach Ms. Mason at 217-558-2200 Ext. 6226 or natalie.mason@illiois.gov. If they do reach out to Ms. Mason, please ask them to let Restore Justice know about their experience by writing to info@restorejustice.org.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

Restore Justice’s main 2021 legislative initiatives

The following two initiatives passed the General Assembly, were signed by the Governor, and are now being implemented:

HB3587, Senate Floor Amendment 5: Created the Resentencing Task Force to study innovative ways to reduce Illinois’s prison population through resentencing. The Task Force will start its work in January, 2022, to consider ways for incarcerated people, state’s attorneys, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), and judges to file resentencing motions to allow someone who previously received a long sentence to be considered for earlier release. A diverse group of stakeholders, including law enforcement representatives and criminal legal system reform advocates, make up the Task Force. The Task Force is charged with submitting recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor’s Office by July 1, 2022. Nearly all members of the Task Force have been appointed. 

SB1976: Established a statewide Family Liason for the Illinois Department Of Corrections (IDOC). The Family Liaison is tasked with receiving complaints, suggestions, and requests from visitors. This bill gives families someone to call who can investigate complaints and attempt to resolve issues. Although the effective date for this bill is January 1, 2022, Natalie Mason has already been appointed as IDOC’s Family Liaison. See the previous page for information on how to contact her.

The following five initiatives did not pass through the General Assembly; Restore Justice will continue working on them in 2022:

HB1064, House Floor Amendment 1: HB1064 would abolish life without parole for most people 20 and younger in Illinois, which would bring Illinois into line with the majority of states. Right now, 25 states prohibit life without parole sentences for people younger than 18. In six other states, no one is serving these sentences. HB 1064 would build on 2019’s Youthful Parole Law, which created the first new parole opportunities in Illinois since the state abolished discretionary parole in 1978. HB1064 would create an opportunity for people younger than 21, when convicted of first-degree murder or sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment, to be eligible for parole review; people with these specific convictions or sentences did not receive parole consideration under the Youthful Parole Law. People could petition the Prisoner Review Board for parole consideration after serving 40 years or more. The legislation would not be retroactive. This bill passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate.

HB2989 House Floor Amendment 2,3,4: This would expand the Youth Firearm Sentencing Law to those 20 and under at the time of the crime. Right now, the law mandates judges add 15 years to life to the sentences of people 18 and older who commit certain crimes with firearms. Fifteen years are added if a firearm is possessed but not discharged; 20 years are added if the gun is personally discharged with no injuries; and 25 years are added if there is a death or grievous injury. 

The Youth Firearm Sentencing Law gave judges the authority to decide whether enhancements make sense on a case-by-case basis for people 17 and younger. They can choose not to apply enhancements to the sentences of people younger than 18. HB 2989 would apply that framework to people ages 18 to 20. Judges would be required to consider: 1) The person’s age, impetuosity, and level of maturity at the time of the offense, including the ability to consider risks and consequences of behavior, and the presence of cognitive and/or developmental disability, if any; 2) whether the person was subjected to outside pressure, including peer pressure, familial pressure, or negative influences; 3) the person’s family, home environment, educational and social background, including any history of parental neglect, physical abuse, or other childhood trauma; 4) the person’s potential for rehabilitation and/or evidence of rehabilitation; 5) the circumstances of the offense; 6) the person’s degree of participation and specific role in the offense, including the level of planning by the defendant before the offense; 7) whether the person was able to meaningfully participate in their defense; 8) the person’s prior juvenile or criminal history; and 9) any other information the court finds relevant and reliable, including an expression of remorse, if appropriate. However, if the person chooses not to make a statement on the advice of counsel, the court shall not consider a lack of an expression of remorse as an aggravating factor. This bill is pending in the House. 

HB3564: This would create the Anthony Gay Law, also known as the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. This bill would limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, jails, and immigration facilities by requiring: 

  • Everyone is allowed out of their cells at least four hours a day. 
  • If someone needs to be kept in a cell for more than 20 hours a day, that can only last 10 days out of any 180-day period.
  • IDOC to post online quarterly reports on the use of isolated confinement.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization have condemned the use of solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Under international standards, more than 15 days in solitary is considered torture. Yet, there are no limits on how long a person can be held in solitary confinement in Illinois. A growing body of medical literature establishes that solitary can cause permanent damage to people’s brains and that virtually everyone who spends extended time in solitary suffers severe, and often long-term, adverse impacts on their mental and physical health. This bill passed through the House and is pending in the Senate. This initiative is led by Anthony Gay and advised by multiple organizations, including Restore Justice and the Uptown People’s Law Center.

SB2123/HB3594: The Restorative Sentencing Act would allow people sentenced under Truth in Sentencing (before 1998) laws to receive up to five years of sentence credit for participation in programs. Individuals serving a term of natural life would not be eligible for sentencing credit. This bill did not move in either chamber. 

SB2363: This would create an offense of accountability, so a person can only be charged if they have the intent to facilitate or encourage the crime. Right now, under Illinois law, accountability is a theory that allows prosecutors to hold someone responsible for another person’s conduct, even if they did not plan or participate in the crime. SB2363 would also ensure a person’s sentence reflects their level of involvement in the crime. It sets a series of sentencing guidelines. This bill did not move in either chamber. 

Bills of interest recently signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker 

The following bills were passed by the Illinois General Assembly during the spring 2021 session and have been signed into law since our last newsletter.

HB562: This comprehensive gun safety measure modernizes Illinois’ 53-year-old Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card law while also requiring background checks on private sales of firearms. Under this measure, the Illinois State Police can remove guns from people with revoked FOID cards, including from those who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or the public, and it creates new incentives to get FOID applicants to voluntarily submit fingerprints. It also invests money in mental health and school programs in communities most affected by gun violence. The effective date is January 1, 2022; some provisions are effective on January 1, 2024. Led by the Gun Violence Prevention-PAC Illinois and a coalition of gun safety organizations.

HB88: HB88 revokes the state law that prevents people with drug convictions from being eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Under this measure, people with drug convictions can seek assistance through TANF. The effective date is October 30, 2021. Led by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Heartland Alliance, and Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

HB1063, House Amendment 1 (previously SB655): HIV criminalization in Illinois stigmatizes people living with HIV by making legal behavior – like consensual sex – illegal, or by increasing penalties for minor crimes such as sharing injection drug equipment. Previously, in Illinois, people living with HIV could be criminally prosecuted for consensual sex; needle-sharing; and donating blood, tissue, organ, and semen. Though the law was titled the “Criminal Transmission of HIV,” there was no actual requirement of transmission. That means people living with HIV could face the threat of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration without any actual transmission taking place. HB1063 ends criminal penalties against people living with HIV and treats HIV like any other chronic disease. The effective date is July 27, 2021. This bill was led by the Illinois HIV Action Alliance.

HB2790: This bill allows public defenders to continue to represent their clients in immigration court even if their immigration cases are not a direct result of their underlying cases. The effective date is January 1, 2022.

HB3235: HB3235 requires the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide people with information about IDs, voting, jobs, housing resources, and more at least 45 days before a person is going to leave prison. The effective date is January 1, 2022.

HB3443, Senate Committee Amendments 4 and 5: This is a trailer bill to the Safe-T Act, which passed in January 2021. The Safe-T Act made changes to policing laws and other elements of the criminal legal system. The trailer bill applies entirely to policing. It relaxes some of the rules around body camera use, removes some language about when the use of force is allowed, and extends deadlines for training requirements. The effective date is June 25, 2021.

HB3513: This requires court clerks to send the Department of Juvenile Justice any police reports about sex offenses allegedly committed or committed by minors in the Department’s custody. It requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to maintain and administer state youth centers. The effective date is August 13, 2021. 

HB3665: The Joe Coleman Medical Release Act allows the Prisoner Review Board to grant early release for people determined by medical professionals to be medically incapacitated (requiring around-the-clock care to survive) or terminally ill. It defines a “terminal illness” as a condition that is likely to cause death in 18 months. Under this measure, crime victims are allowed to submit statements to the Prisoner Review Board. The effective date is January 1, 2022. This initiative is led by Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Court and Illinois Prison Project.

SB64: This removes barriers to restorative justice practices by establishing a privilege for communications made during restorative justice proceedings. This bill prevents anything said or done during or in preparation for a restorative justice practice from being referred to, used, or admitted in any civil, criminal, juvenile, or administrative proceeding, unless privilege is waived. The effective date is July 15, 2021. Led by the Juvenile Justice Initiative.

SB2122: Under this measure, confessions made by minors will be inadmissible if law enforcement lied to them in order to obtain the confessions. The effective date is January 1, 2022.

SB2129: This bill allows prosecutors, at their discretion, to motion a sentencing judge or their successor to resentence incarcerated people whose original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice. Upon receipt of a motion for resentencing, sentencing judges may, at their discretion, resentence an incarcerated person to a lesser sentence. Under SB2129, all victims will be afforded the rights outlined in the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act. The law is effective on January 1, 2022. 

Please see the information from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office about its plans to implement SB2129 in the section of this newsletter on ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS on pages 9 thru 11. For cases outside of Cook County, contact the local State’s Attorney’s Office for information on the implementation of SB2129.

Bills of interest that passed through both chambers of the Legislature during the Veto Session 

HB2791: Amends the Reimagine Public Safety Act to address gun violence in Illinois by working with communities most affected by violence. HB2791 will increase the number of communities that can receive grant money for gun violence prevention under the recently enacted Reimagine Public Safety Act. The legislation will also allow for five more communities to be eligible statewide and allow organizations to apply directly for training and technical assistance from contractors.

HJR27: Creates the Illinois Higher Education in Prison Task Force to assess barriers and opportunities to higher education in prison (“HEP”) in Illinois. Diverse stakeholders will come together to assess barriers and opportunities to HEP in Illinois and recommend legislative action to expand access to HEP for all incarcerated and formerly incarcerated scholars. The Task Force will submit its final report to the Governor and General Assembly no later than July 31, 2022. This resolution was adopted by both chambers on October 27, 2021. It was led by the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison’s Freedom to Learn Campaign. 

Bills of interest that did not pass through both chambers of the Legislature, but may be considered with the same bill numbers through 2022 

SB828, House Floor Amendments 3 and 4: This bill would allow people incarcerated in state prisons to retain their right to vote. Correctional institutions would make resource materials current to an election available to people who are incarcerated. Additionally, it provides that a voter entitled to vote in another county, other than the county where the jail is located, would be allowed to vote by mail. Finally, it creates the Post-Conviction Task Force to strengthen and improve provisions that restore the right to vote for a person convicted of a felony or otherwise under sentence in a correctional institution or jail. This initiative was led by Chicago Votes. This bill passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

HB3512, Senate Floor Amendment 1: A second trailer bill to the Safe-T Act passed in January 2021. The Safe-T Act made changes to policing laws and other elements of the criminal legal system. This bill would have moved back implementation timelines for various reforms; established a review committee to reconsider decisions to decertify police officers accused of disciplinary violations; and provided decertified officers more avenues to appeal decisions, among other adjustments. It provides that the mandatory supervised release term for a Class 3 or 4 felony is 12 months, except for certain specified offenses. Provides that no later than 30 days after the onset of the term of mandatory supervised release and at the halfway point into the term of mandatory supervised release, the Prisoner Review Board shall conduct a discretionary discharge review, which shall include the results of a standardized risk and needs assessment tool administered by the Department of Corrections. This bill passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

SB2333/HB2399: The Earned Reentry bill would give people with long-term sentences, including natural life, the opportunity for regular review by the Prisoner Review Board. During the first three years of implementation, people older than 50 would be prioritized for parole. It would ensure every incarcerated person receives parole review after serving 20 years. Provides that if an incarcerated person is released on earned discretionary reentry, his or her sentence shall be considered complete after the term of mandatory supervised release. Applies retroactively. This initiative was led by Parole Illinois. This did not pass through either chamber.

SB649: This bill would require individuals who are incarcerated and working in the correctional industries program, on work release, or in a work training program, to be paid at least minimum wage. This did not pass either chamber.

LITIGATION UPDATES

Illinois Supreme Court 

People v. Dorsey, 2021 IL 1230 Justice Michael Burke wrote for the 6-1 majority, holding good conduct credit is a relevant factor when determining whether a juvenile’s sentence constitutes a de facto life sentence. Derrell Dorsey was 14 years old when he was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Derrell received a 76-year aggregate sentence, which he challenged in 2000, arguing his sentence was excessive because the trial court failed to consider his age and rehabilitative potential. The appellate court upheld his sentence concluding the trial court appropriately considered Derrell’s age as a mitigating factor. After several more appeals over the course of 20 years, Derrell appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court in March 2020. He argued that because he committed his offense at 14 years old, his length sentence is an unconstitutional de facto life sentence under Miller v. Alabama and People v. Buffer. Further, Derrell argued his eligibility for sentencing credit is not part of his sentence and should not be taken into consideration when deciding whether to give him a post-conviction petition.  

The majority walks through precedent impacting juvenile life sentences including Graham v. Florida, Miller, Montgomery v. Louisiana, and the newest United States Supreme Court case Jones v. Mississippi. The most concerning note amongst those arguments is the court’s reliance on Jones. The court stated, “the eighth amendment allows juvenile offenders to be sentenced to life without parole as long as the sentence is not mandatory and the sentencing court had the discretion to consider youth and its attendant characteristics.” The court explains the statutory scheme for good time credit “requires” that a person receive one day of credit for each day served, so it “allows a predictable, fairly accurate assessment at the time of sentencing of the ultimate length of imprisonment.” In Derrell’s case, he “has an opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation so that he only needs to serve 38 years of his aggregate 76-year sentence.” Meaning, his sentence does not violate Buffer’s 40-year de facto sentence limitation, nor does it violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, Derrell’s motion to file a successive post-conviction petition was denied.  

Justice Neville was the lone dissenter, arguing that day-for-day, good-conduct sentence credit should not be considered when determining if a juvenile’s sentence meets the 40-year threshold for a de facto life sentence. He criticized the majority’s decision because the “mere possibility of an earlier release” after 38 years for good conduct is “conditional” and “speculative.” Good conduct credit cannot be used at the initial pleading stage to determine whether the individual reaches the 40-year threshold for a de facto life sentence. Instead, Justice Neville concluded that Derrell properly alleged his 76-year sentence is a de facto life sentence under Buffer and violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. That finding entitles Derrell to relief and remand for further second stage post-conviction proceedings.  

Despite this disappointing result for Mr. Dorsey, and for many individuals incarcerated as children serving excessive sentences who saw Dorsey as a ray of hope, we commend Bryon Reina, Dorsey’s attorney, and the rest of the OSAD team, for their tireless and thoughtful advocacy for Derrell Dorsey.

People v. Antonio House, 2021 IL 125124 – Antonio House was 19 when he was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping based on accountability theory. He was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole based on the multiple-murder statute and two terms of 30 years for the aggravated kidnapping counts to run consecutive to the life sentences. House filed a post-conviction petition, and the Illinois Appellate Court decided his life sentence violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. The court said “the designation that after age 18 an individual is a mature adult appears to be somewhat arbitrary, especially in the case at bar,” relying on relevant United States Supreme Court cases (Miller, Graham, and Roper) for findings about continuing brain development in young people. At that point, House was entitled to a resentencing hearing where the Trial Court had to consider relevant mitigating factors, including age. 

The Illinois Attorney General appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. On October 22, 2021, Justice Carter delivered the majority opinion with Justices Garman, Theis, and Neville concurring, Justices Anne Burke, Michael Burke and Overstreet concurring and dissenting in part. The court reversed the Appellate Court’s holding, stating House does not have a right to an appeal based on the violation of the Illinois Constitution but can continue to pursue his innocence claim. Justice Anne Burke, Michael Burke, and Overstreet disagreed with the decision to remand and continue post-conviction proceedings to consider whether House’s natural life sentence violates the proportionate penalties clause. 

Under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, there are three stages to a post-conviction claim. First, the court independently reviews the post-conviction petition and determines if it is “frivolous or is patently without merit.” If the petition is not dismissed, it moves to the second stage, where the court determines whether there is a substantial showing of a constitutional violation. If there is a constitutional violation, the petition moves to the third stage, where there is an evidentiary hearing.

The State argued the Appellate Court erred in considering the constitutional claim because the court did not have a sufficiently developed record in terms of facts and circumstances. House argued the Appellate Court properly remanded the case for resentencing and that no further record development was needed to find his mandatory life sentence “shocks the conscience as applied to him.” The Court found there was no evidentiary hearing, and the Trial Court did not make factual findings regarding House’s age. The Court agreed with the State that “no trial court has made factual findings concerning the scientific research cited in the articles, the limits of that research, or the competing scientific research, let alone how that research applies to petitioner’s characteristics and circumstances.” Therefore, the Appellate Court erred when finding his sentence violated the Illinois Constitution because the evidentiary record was not sufficiently developed. This claim was remanded to the circuit court for second-stage post-conviction proceedings to develop the record further. 

House had one other claim at issue; he argued he made a substantial showing of his innocence based on new evidence. The key witness recanted her trial testimony, which House contended shows he was not present when the kidnapping and killings occurred. The Court held that the innocence claim should be remanded to the trial court to reconsider the second-stage post-conviction proceedings. 

Illinois Appellate Courts

People v. Anthony Jones – Anthony Jones was sentenced to 35 years for an accountability murder plus a mandatory 15-year firearm enhancement for a botched robbery attempt when he was 19. On March 31, 2021, the Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new sentencing hearing. The Court relied on Buffer and the appellate decision in House – the offense was less serious than in House: Jones, though armed, did not fire his weapon and was beaten unconscious by the robbery targets. Lusby was found wholly inapplicable given its facts and the finding of depravity in that case. The Appellate Court concluded the record was sufficiently developed to support a new sentencing hearing. 

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

We love hearing from you. Although we cannot individually respond to all the letters we receive, we read every letter and note your concerns. Please read below for answers to your frequently asked questions.

HOW YOUR FAMILY CAN OBTAIN A COPY OF OUR NEWSLETTER

Your loved one can visit our website to view this newsletter virtually at: 

www.restorejustice.org/category/newsletters

PELL GRANTS

In December of 2020, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that reinstated Pell Grant access to people in prison. Since then, the U.S. Department of Education has announced that they will expand the Second Chance Pell Experiment for the 2022-2023 award year. The new law will go into effect July 1, 2023, when students in prison will be able to access Pell Grants through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid Simplification Act (FAFSA). Pell Grants are a primary source of need-based financial aid for people who are incarcerated. The expansion of the Second Chance Pell Experiment will allow up to 200 postsecondary institutions to offer education in prison with support from the Pell Grant Program. The latest expansion of the program is expected to allow 64% of people in federal or state prison to be eligible for federal student aid. It has been found that people in incarceration who participated in postsecondary education programs were 48% less likely to return to prison. There have not been any new updates on applying for a Pell Grant or any specific information related to Illinois. We will monitor the changes and will provide information as it becomes available.  

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) Resentencing Initiative (SB2129)

Many of your letters concerned this initiative. Thankfully, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (the CCSAO) recently published the following information on its website. The CCSAO plans to utilize SB2129 to review cases and identify incarcerated people with sentences that fall into the categories outlined below. They are starting with what they call Priority Tier/Phase 1. 

Everything between the *** on the following pages is quoted from the CCSAO website – please know that we had hoped for much more from this initiative, and we will continue to advocate for expansion. That said, we wanted you to have the information they are providing, which is, again, between the *** on page 10 and 11.

 ***

Criteria for Priority Tier/Phase 1:

  • Persons who have served at least 10 years of a sentence for a drug-related offense. 
  • Persons who are currently age 65 or older and have served at least 20 years for a non-sex and non-homicide offense. 
  • Persons who were under 21 at the time of their offense and have served at least 15 years for a non-sex and non-homicide offense.
  • Persons who have served at least 10 years for a theft/robbery/burglary offense. 

The CCSAO cannot request resentencing for people who have not served at least the minimum sentence for their crime(s) and/or who are currently serving mandatory sentences, such as mandatory life sentences. 

The review process will include consideration of additional factors, including but not limited to, prior convictions, disciplinary record while incarcerated, programming participation, and record of rehabilitation while incarcerated. 

Resources 

Contact email: saoresentencinginitiative@cookcountyil.gov

Information Form: Please use this form on the CCSAO website if you, your client, or your loved one wishes to be considered for resentencing under SB 2129, an Illinois resentencing law that allows prosecutors, at their discretion, to motion a sentencing judge or their successor to resentence incarcerated persons whose original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice. The form requests the following information: the incarcerated person’s name, date of birth, IDOC number, current IDOC facility, projected release date, case numbers, crimes, and if there are any pending requests for relief (e.g. appeals, post-conviction petitions, federal habeas petitions, clemency petitions).

Please note this is not an application for resentencing, as the resentencing law is not effective until January 1, 2022, and the CCSAO is not actively reviewing requests for resentencing. Once the CCSAO begins accepting requests and if your request fits the current criteria for consideration, the office will contact the person making the request regarding submitting additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions about the (CCSAO) Resentencing Initiative

Q: How do I contact the CCSAO with resentencing questions under this law? 

A: If you have a question or receive a request or correspondence from an incarcerated person or their advocate (including loved ones and attorneys) regarding resentencing, please reach out or forward the message to saoresentencinginitiative@cookcountyil.gov. Please note that we cannot guarantee responses to individual requests at this time. Additionally, if you wish to mail documents to the CCSAO, please direct mail to 69 W. Washington Suite 3200, Attn: Resentencing Initiative, Chicago, IL, 60602. 

Q: Can I request that my case be reviewed for resentencing? 

A: No. There is currently no application process for cases to be resentenced. Additionally, at this time, the CCSAO is not considering individual requests for resentencing, as the office is prioritizing the review of cases from its internal identification process based on the criteria listed above. If you would like to submit information for future consideration for resentencing, please use the digital form. Note: this digital form is not a request for resentencing, but will be part of a list for possible future review by the CCSAO.  

Q: Can my case be considered for resentencing even if it does not meet the criteria listed above?  

A: No. While your case may not currently fall into the criteria outlined above, the CCSAO will expand its criteria in the future. Therefore, even if your case does not currently meet eligibility criteria for review, you can still do the following in preparation for when criteria change. 

  • Save certificates and documentation that indicate your participation in any type of programming while incarcerated (e.g., educational courses, mental health and/or substance abuse treatment groups, religious activities, or groups). 
  • Avoid rule violations in prison. 
  • Regularly update your resume. 
  • Begin reflecting on your past actions by writing a letter of remorse and accountability (do not send this letter to the victim but keep a copy for your own files).
  • Identify and cultivate relationships with people in your family and/or community who could provide positive support and stability to you after incarceration. 

Q: Do I need a lawyer for my case to be reviewed and resentenced? 

A: No, you do not need a lawyer for your case to be considered for resentencing. Therefore, it is not advised to pay any attorneys offering to “file a petition for you.” Be careful of any organization or legal entity charging a legal fee and claiming to be able to expedite or file a petition on your behalf. If your case is identified for review and consideration of resentencing, you will be given the option to receive legal representation free of charge from a pro bono attorney, law clinic, or other legal aid organization.  

Q: Will victims be notified if a case is being considered for resentencing? 

A: Yes. The CCSAO will notify crime victims of potential resentencing and provide an opportunity for them to be heard and their thoughts to be considered. 

In conformity with the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act and as part of its evaluation process, the CCSAO will make every effort to contact impacted crime victims and provide notice of any upcoming court proceedings. Crime victims in any case being considered for resentencing will have an opportunity to address the CCSAO and the court as part of any resentencing consideration and proceeding.

***

Joe Coleman Medical Release Act

*The following Compassionate Release Guide about the Joe Coleman Medical Release Act was written by the Illinois Prison Project and reprinted with permission here.* 

On Aug. 19, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed into law House Bill 3665, the Joe Coleman Medical Release Act. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The Joe Coleman Medical Release Act allows incarcerated people with terminal illnesses or disabilities to end their sentences and return to their families. 

Application and Consideration

Beginning on January 1, 2022, the Prisoner Review Board will accept applications for medical release. Applications can be submitted by email or fax, and do not need to be notarized. Anyone can submit an application, including the incarcerated person for whom medical release is sought, a family member, a friend, an Illinois Department of Corrections staff member, or a medical professional. Meeting the conditions for eligibility does not guarantee medical release. Release will be granted solely at the discretion of a three-member panel of the Prisoner Review Board.

Medical release is an additional avenue to pursue release from IDOC custody. Applying for medical release under the Joe Coleman Medical Release Act does not exclude someone from pursuing other forms of relief, such as commutation or resentencing.

Eligibility

People eligible for release under the Joe Coleman Medical Release Act must be terminally ill and have been given a prognosis of 18 months or fewer to live. People considered medically incapacitated might also be eligible, meaning that they need assistance to complete two or more activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, walking, getting dressed, or using the restroom.

Preparation

If you are looking to apply for medical release after January 1, 2022, you can begin now by collecting medical records and preparing a parole plan. Medical records should include a brief overview of the applicant’s medical history and specific documentation of the treatment and progression of the individual’s terminal illness disability. A parole plan should include where the person will live upon release, any additional support they will receive from family and friends, and any benefits they may qualify for, such as those through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND TRAININGS

NEW! In partnership with the Coalition to Decarcerate Illinois:  LOVED ONES SELF ADVOCACY TRAINING SERIES: Spanish and ASL translations will be available. Your loved ones can register at:  https://restorejustice.org/loved-ones-self-advocacy-training-series/

  • December 6th, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Grievances. Guest Speakers Alan Mills from Uptown People’s Law Center, and Marshan Allen and Pablo Mendoza, both formerly incarcerated, successful grievance writers. This training will outline how to write successful grievances and discuss why they are needed. Even though loved ones do not write the grievances, it is important they understand the process and why it matters. 
  • January 10, 2022, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Clemency. Guest Speaker from Illinois Prison Project. Who can file? What is the process? Can you file on your behalf without an attorney? We will cover these topics and more, including how family and friends can assist with clemency petitions. 
  • February 7, 2022, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Medical Issues; what to do, who to call? 
  • March 3, 2022, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Transfers within the IDOC, who to call? What is the process?
  • April 4, 2022, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Visiting Issues
  • May 2, 2022, 6:00 to 7:00 pm – Topic: Slow mail

VIRTUAL AND IN-PERSON STATE LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY TRAINING

Invite your loved ones to sign up for our upcoming trainings. We offer regular, free, public, and/or custom advocacy training for individuals and organizations interested in advocating at the state level in Illinois. Find out more: https://restorejustice.org/events/advocacy-camp 

FAMILY SUPPORT & ADVOCACY GROUP (CRIIC):  We meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month to discuss legislation, court decisions, and prison conditions. We also share our strategies for self-care and caring for an incarcerated loved one. Below is our upcoming schedule. Please have your loved ones email Julie Anderson at janderson@restorejustice.org to be added to our email list for meeting information and registration.

  • December 14, 2021  – “A Review of 2021, in-person 1238 W. 51st St. “Art on 51st” Lunch provided.
  • January 11, 2021 – Virtual Meeting (via Zoom) –  Guest Speaker: Lindsey Hammond, Policy Director at Restore Justice. Discussion on upcoming legislative agenda, how your loved ones can help, and upcoming legislative trainings available. 
  • February 8, 2022 – virtual meeting (via Zoom) – Guest Speaker: Attorney Scott Main, to discuss upcoming and recent court decisions.
  • March 8, 2022 – TBD in-person meeting or virtual.  Guest Speaker: Sarah Ross – IL-CHEP, “Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison”
  • April 12, 2022 – TBD in person or virtual.  Guest Speaker:  Jenny Soble, Executive Director, Illinois Prison Project to speak about the Clemency Process

ANNOUNCING A NEW QUAD CITIES LOVED ONES SUPPORT GROUP

“Foundation 1 by 1” is a new support group for families and friends of the incarcerated. This loving support group is based in the Quad Cities. Our belief is that together things are better. With a mission that in the midst of difficulty, together we stand, one by one! This group connects once per month to strengthen our bond and stand together. If you or your family and friends are in the Quad City area and would like to join our group, please email foundationonebyone@gmail.com for more details.

RESTORE JUSTICE ADDRESS UPDATES

Restore Justice is happy to add anyone incarcerated to our mailing list. We are always happy to hear of individuals being released. Please update us on your release.  Many newsletters are returned and if we know you’re home we would love to stay in touch.  We ask if you are released to send us an email at: info@restorejusticeillinois.org 

If you are transferred, please let us know.  Mark the envelope:  “address change”

Many of you have written requesting email correspondence from us; we are sorry, but it is not practical at this time for us to send out legislative updates via email. 

RESTORE JUSTICE STAFF UPDATE

We are happy to announce that Harold Hagerman, who was our apprentice at Restore Justice from February to October 2021, has secured a position as a full-time mentor at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation! While we will miss Harold at our daily meetings, we are thrilled for him and we know he will make a huge impact on youth in Back of the Yards and West Englewood! The apprenticeship program is growing at Restore Justice. We seek to hire individuals who have served more than 20 years in IDOC who, upon release, seek to build a career in non-profit work and advocacy. We only have one or two spots for apprentices at any given time, and our goal is to keep an apprentice until they are placed in a position at another organization or within Restore Justice. We currently have three former apprentices on our staff full-time.

FROM THE DESK OF…

Jobi Cates, Executive Director

October was a difficult month for our community. While we worked hard to make progress, we were disappointed not to be able to pass HB1064 during the veto session. And, the Illinois Supreme Court case, House, which we were so hoping would open the door wider to resentencing via Miller v. Alabama, actually ended up narrowing it. Setbacks and delays like these are frustrating at the best of times. But these days, we really wanted some good news.

Sadly, October wasn’t the best of times to begin with, as we learned of the deaths of several members of our “original” juvenile-life-without-parole community, including James Walker, who received a juvenile life without parole sentence in 1984, and Olivia Cal, one of the founders of the CRIIC family group and mother of Cedric Cal, who was serving a juvenile life sentence but was recently granted clemency. 

We do a lot more than “juvenile life” policy work these days, but it is where Restore Justice was born, working to end juvenile life sentences and help the people who were most harmed by them. Olivia was one of the first moms I met, along with Julie Anderson, back in 2008 when I first joined the Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children. I hold Olivia in my heart as a fierce warrior for justice, a devoted mother and grandmother, and an incredibly supportive and encouraging friend. 

I’m not sharing this to make you feel bad! I have a point. My point is, if we stick with this work long enough, THINGS GET BETTER. If we can get through a hard month, what comes on the other side is likely better. Even when we don’t see it right away, we always learn from failure during a legislative session; our fantastic lawyer friends always find something in a bad court case to improve our arguments for the next ones. 

We are never alone. We have your letters, which we read and share with care. We have our family group, which provides love and laughter. We have a growing advocacy team of “regular people” who just think these laws are wrong and want to help change them. We have donors who give of their own wealth to make sure we can hire apprentices who have served a lot of time and who will provide leadership far into the future. We have colleague organizations and activists whose creativity inspires us. We have what it takes to be in it for the long haul, and to see months like this as something we can get through, not something we have to be stuck in.

Thank you for being a part of this community of positive energy and support. We know it is harder for you than for any of us on the outside, and that keeps us focused on what matters: shrinking long sentences, creating avenues for release, and reducing the harm of a merciless system.

I hope you are able to find silver linings or hopeful moments during any difficult times to come.

Warmly, and with my best hope for a peaceful season,

Jobi

Julie Anderson, Outreach Director

Greetings, it’s been a long year and covid is still with us. I know all of us have grown weary of the restrictions, the difficulties and the excuses that covid has wreaked upon us. Having been involved with the IDOC for more than 25 years I have seen a lot and this stretch is some of the hardest time I have done along with my loved one. I am really excited to help bring the Loved Ones Self Advocacy Training Series, we have some great topics lined up and some even better speakers. I hope this letter arrives in time for your loved ones to join us for the December session. Alan Mills is a great resource.  The goal of this series is to help your loved ones find their voices and hopefully advocate for themselves and you. Thank you for all of your letters; although we cannot respond individually we read every letter. So many of you reached out to thank us for our Summer newsletter. I want you to know how grateful we are at Restore Justice to hear from you and to be able to send the newsletter out. Everyone on the staff works hard and researches your questions to try and bring the most accurate information we can. I know sometimes we have to deliver news that isn’t good, or what you or us were hoping for, but I also know that being as honest and truthful as we can is the most important goal. I always wish we could do more or we had more power. As we approach the holidays, I know these are especially hard times for all of you and your loved ones. Please know there are many many people here who are fighting to make things better, even if it is a little bit at a time.  

Lindsey Hammond, Policy Director

There is a popular show our team has become addicted to watching called Ted Lasso. It’s a comedy show about a small town football coach who is hired to coach a British soccer team. The hook is that he has no experience and knows nothing about soccer. Yet, Ted Lasso is full of inspiring optimism and heartwarming moments. It is a welcome breath of fresh air during the ongoing pandemic, grief, and loss we have been experiencing. One of my favorite Ted quotes is, “I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.” Although I wish this newsletter was filled with more significant changes that could impact you directly, I believe that day is coming. This next year will bring the opportunity to work with the newly created Resentencing Task Force and more opportunities to pass legislation, especially after the 2022 elections. Over the past few months, we have met with many lawmakers and advocates, sharing your hopes and stories, and sowing seeds to drive change. We will continue to advocate, seek paths forward, and believe. I hope that you find blessings and peace in this season.

Alissa Rivera, Communications Manager

Hello! It’s hard to believe we are nearing the end of 2021. I want to thank everyone who shared their “accountability” stories with me and our team. Our goal is to share as many of the stories as possible on our website and on social media. I wish I could respond to each of you, but please know we are grateful that you shared your experiences with us. Thank you! This month, we are busy planning our December fundraiser. This will be my third fundraiser with the Restore Justice team. I am grateful to be doing this work with the RJ staff and with all of you.

Wendell Robinson, Program Manager

Greetings All, As always I call it like I see it. In this entry I’ll be talking about Returning Citizens engaging the community 1st Annual BBQ and Softball game (16in). The event was a collaboration with the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). The turnout was great, this event allowed us to start the conversation around what we can do about some of the registries. But Food, Softball and Fun is how some will describe it! At certain points I wasn’t able to say how it felt, to see people on this side (FREE), that you grew to know and Love on the inside, Is nothing short of amazing in itself! Seeing that people are doing well, hearing well about others, please believe y’all we figuring this sh– out! Resilience is Real…  Forever in Solidarity!

Kayla Rueda, Chief of Staff

Hello! I hope this message finds you well. This year has been such a challenging one – filled with struggle, loss, anxiety, etc. But, you have made it through! I hope you are able to recognize how much strength and resilience you have. I recently changed positions at Restore Justice and have been promoted to our Chief of Staff. I help things run smoothly and keep everyone on track – so we can continue to accomplish work and move change forward! I have been working on our Women’s Data Project. Thank you to those of you who have responded and sent me letters about your cases. It has been extremely helpful. I plan to continue my work on that project into next year. 

Alice Swan, Office Manager

Hello, friends! This time of year keeps those of us on the administrative side of RJ’s work busy with fundraising. We hold an annual fundraiser in December, and it will be virtual again this year. It’s a trade-off–we will miss seeing people in-person, but a virtual event reaches a wider audience. Also on the financial side, we recently completed our first external audit–we’ve grown large enough that we are now required to have an annual audit to assure the IRS, the Illinois Attorney General, and our funders that we are managing our financial resources wisely. It’s a lot of paperwork, but the good news is that it means we have more funding to put towards promoting our legislative priorities. 

Nelson Morris, Program Associate

Hello brothers and sisters, I know that you have seen & been through some difficult times lately, whether it’s been really bad court decisions or Covid related issues. Also I know my words won’t make your time easier, but I pray that they bring some kind of  hope in you knowing that we are and will continue to fight for you in every way that’s possible, even when it might feel like you’re on your own. We have been busy with the beginning stages of working to change the Murder & violent offender Registries, also fighting for HB1064, As well as Fund Raising, which I have started taking a more hands-on role in. Keep your heads up and know that you are not alone! Thank You for your strength and endurance.

James Swansey, Policy Associate

Greetings Brothers and Sisters!! This journey has definitely been all that I thought and then some. I have learned so much, and met some of the most passionate people. It is good to know that WE are not in the fight alone, although there are times when it does feel that way. We know that the goal is freedom, but there are circumstances that most people coming home will face that I would like to talk about. There are certain registries that you are required to complete upon your release. These registries have become blurred as to what is true and what is not. Restore Justice is in the process of finding ways to challenge these statutes because if this is something that has to be done by people returning back to society then it should be clear and concise of what is required by the registering person. On another note, it has truly been a nice ride since I have made it home!! I wake up to a new adventure everyday because everyday I learn something new!!! Stay safe brothers and sisters, and take care of yourself!!!!

Greetings from our Fall Interns

Sydney Goggins: Hello, I am happy to be included in my second newsletter to you all since being at Restore Justice. You all are what makes our work matter! I am in my third and final year at the University of Minnesota Law School. I have always been passionate about criminal reform but it was not until participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement after George Floyd that I realized it was my life’s work. I sought out an organization where I could continue the advocacy I was participating in in Minneapolis that summer and found Restore Justice. I am so grateful to be a part of Restore Justice’s work reforming our criminal legal system and working with you all. 

Suzanna Newton: Hi everyone! My name is Suzanna and I am a senior at Connecticut College. I am studying Government, Neuroscience and Mathematics. I am from just outside of Chicago! I am passionate about criminal justice reform, human rights and public health. I have enjoyed every second as an intern for Restore Justice. I have been focusing on legislative work and research on the benefits of family visitation. I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing organization and working with awesome people. Thinking of you all!

Bethany Cooper: Hi all! My name is Bethany and I am so glad to be interning with Restore Justice this year. I am currently working on my Masters of Divinity at Garrett Theological Seminary, with the hopes of pursuing a career in non-for-profit justice work. I chose to intern at Restore Justice this year because criminal reform is a topic that has become very important to me over the past few years. After coming to understand the grave injustices that exist in the prison system, I wanted to learn more about how to change the laws that uphold these injustices. Restore Justice has given me the opportunity to understand more about the unjust policies that affect the prison system, and how to be part of the incremental work of changing those policies. It is an honor to work alongside Restore Justice’s many amazing advocates! 

Restore Justice 

PO Box 101099

Chicago, IL  60608

Restore Justice Visiting Questionnaire 

Please mail this questionnaire to one of your loved ones. We will not share their name or contact information. Please have them mail it to:        

Restore Justice Foundation

Attn: Visiting Survey 

PO Box 101099

Chicago, IL 60610

Name: 

Email: 

Phone Number: 

Have you been able to visit your loved one in-person, within the last six months? 

If so, what facility did you visit? 

Did you have any issues scheduling your visit or did your visit get cancelled? 

Did you receive your full visit time (excluding check-in)? 

Please tell us about any issues that you experienced while checking-in or during your visit? 

Were you able to hear your loved one through the plexiglass? 

Were you able to purchase food from the vending machines? 

During your visit, were the correctional officers wearing masks (correctly – covering their mouth and nose)

Have you contacted the new Family Liaison – Natalie Mason? If yes, please tell us about your experience? If you do not have her information, you can contact her at 217-558-2200 ext 6226 or natalie.mason@illinois.gov   

Do you have any other additional comments or concerns about your visit? 

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