We applaud Governor JB Pritzker for moving Illinois closer to retroactive sentencing reform. On Thursday, July 15, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3587 into law. This bill will create a Resentencing Task Force to study innovative ways to reduce Illinois’s prison population. The task force will consider ways for incarcerated people, state’s attorneys, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), and judges to file resentencing motions to allow second looks for people who previously received long sentences. The task force will be composed of a diverse group of stakeholders and will submit recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor’s Office by July 1, 2022.
Representatives Justin Slaughter and Kelly Cassidy, and Senator Robert Peters sponsored HB 3587. These legislators are champions for commonsense, compassionate policies that acknowledge our “tough on crime” laws did not make anyone safer but did deprive families of loved ones and communities of voices. In Illinois, virtually all sentencing reform legislation is prospective only; lawmakers recognize the injustice of a law but do not provide opportunities for release to those who bore the brunt of the bad policy.
“Too many people are serving extreme sentences that don’t make us safer. We need to create second look opportunities to not only allow for the possibility of redemption but also to incentivize rehabilitation and reunite families,” Restore Justice Policy Director Lindsey Hammond said.
Restore Justice has three men on our team that each served more than 25 years in prison for youthful convictions and received second chances through the US Supreme Court. Had it been up to the Illinois Legislature, these men would still be serving life without parole. Instead, they are supporting their families, their communities, and the people they left behind in prison. They work as violence prevention mentors, help others reacclimate to society, and spend their time with their children and grandchildren. There are thousands of men just like them in Illinois prisons.
“I was truly blessed to have a second chance at life, and I can attest that people who serve long sentences should be part of the solution,” Restore Justice Future Leaders Apprentice James Swansey said. “‘We are the examples, not the exception,’ my friend Marshan Allen always says. Marshan has also flourished with his second chance. People who change for the better because they really want to become better people should benefit from this task force. We need to bring home more people who would make an immediate positive change in their communities and society. I know many individuals that will shine if given the chance.”
Restore Justice, which comprises Restore Justice Foundation and Restore Justice Illinois, works to address issues faced by those serving life or de-facto life sentences, their families, and their communities. Founded in 2015 by a dedicated group of advocates that included the late former Congressman, Federal Judge, and White House Counsel Abner Mikva, Restore Justice trains and supports advocates, conducts research, nurtures partnerships, and develops policy solutions that will roll back ineffective “tough on crime” policies of the past, replacing them with compassionate, smart, and safe policies for the future.