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What we focus on

We focus on three areas of law and policy: sentencing reform, the conditions of incarceration, and meaningful pathways to release. These areas impact not only the individuals who serve Illinois’ most extreme sentences, but their loved ones and communities as well. We support candidates who prioritize these issues.


Our focus is to transform the unjust laws governing the criminal legal system in Illinois. We believe in the possibility of growth, redemption, and reunification with the community for all people who are incarcerated.

Restore Justice Illinois (RJI) is a civic organization founded to mitigate the human and fiscal impact of Illinois’ extreme sentencing laws, particularly where they have impacted children and young adults.

As a 501(c)(4) organization, RJI utilizes its resources to engage in direct legislative and political advocacy at the state level. We lobby in Springfield to champion transformative criminal legal reform legislation and work to elect local political candidates who will support and protect our reform efforts.

Our legislative focus areas


In Illinois, a number of sentencing laws converge to create a system that consistently results in extremely long prison terms. While touted as a strategy to make our justice system more fair and effective, research shows that policies like these lead to little to no reduction in crime, while contributing heavily to overcrowded prisons. Restore Justice supports policies that would eliminate or reduce mandatory minimums, roll back firearm enhancements, and otherwise change the laws that rigidly increase sentence lengths or restrict judges from applying appropriate sentences.

Prison conditions and practices

The human, social and economic costs of our current prison state are intolerable – change can’t wait any longer. Restore Justice supports efforts to move Illinois corrections towards a model that values rehabilitation over punishment. This includes making healthcare more affordable for people who are incarcerated, allowing family and loved ones to visit them more often, and reducing the use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure.


In 1978, Illinois abolished the practice of parole. Then, 20 years later, the state passed so-called “truth-in-sentencing” laws, which restrict the ability of many people who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentences. This means many people who enter prison in Illinois have few meaningful ways to work toward their release. Restore Justice supports efforts to give rehabilitated people more meaningful pathways to earn their release. Currently, that means restoring Illinois to its pre-1978 parole-for-release system and rolling back truth-in-sentencing laws.

How we select candidates

RJI researches and identifies political candidates whose values and agenda align with our own view of the future for Illinois.