Freedom to Learn Campaign IL Calls for the Need to #DecarcerateCOVID19

The Freedom to Learn Campaign IL (FTL) formed in March 2019 in response to Danville Correctional Center’s staff removing over 200 titles from the Education Justice Project’s library at the prison. Although the books have since been returned, FTL remains an active campaign with specific outcomes that support free, quality, and equitable college-in-prison programs.

As COVID-19 spreads in individuals who are incarcerated, those who have chronic illnesses and cancer are especially susceptible.  One such individual’s story is being told by his daughter, Ashley (pictured at left), who has shared her father’s story on FTL’s website. Her father is currently incarcerated in Illinois and is recovering from cancer and a liver transplant. He is also on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.  Already vulnerable while staying alone in his cell, Ashley learned this week that he was assigned a new cellmate, someone coming straight from the outside world.

Every day that goes by without a move to decarcerate vulnerable populations, like those with health conditions akin to Ashley’s father, is an additional day that they are in danger. Ashley has not stopped calling the prison where her father is incarcerated: “They’re going to have to block my number to get me to stop calling.”

We ask you to read Ashley’s story on FTL’s website, then take action yourself:

  • Contact the Illinois Prisoner Review Board by phone at 217.782.7273 and leave the following message: “Hi, my name is               . I am an Illinois resident. I am calling to request that the board significantly expedites the granting of good time credits for individuals in the Illinois Department of Corrections. For the public health of our state, we need to release as many people as possible, as soon as possible. I also request that you reduce the number of check-ins necessary between any individual on mandatory supervised release and their supervising officer. Every authority has the responsibility to stop mandating in-person contact during this time. Thank you.”
  • Look up your State’s Attorney online and call or email them with the following message: “Hi, my name is ____. I am a resident of _____ county. I am calling to ask that State’s Attorney _____ take proactive steps toward decreasing our county jail population. Please stop bringing people in for new crimes. Cite and release whenever possible. And please release anyone who is in jail for a low-level crime simply because they cannot pay bond. Thank you for keeping our community safe during this pandemic.”
  • Call the Illinois Department of Corrections at 217.558.2200, ext. 2008 and leave the following message: “Hi my name is _____. I’m an Illinois resident. I am aware that your department is operating at 120% capacity in the middle of a state and national crisis that calls us all to distance ourselves from one another. It is within your department’s power to release any elderly person in your custody with less than 12 months remaining on their sentence. I’m calling to ask that you release all of those individuals immediately.”
  • Contact the Illinois Department of Corrections via their online form and enter the following email script: “I am aware that your department is operating at 120% capacity in the middle of a state and national crisis that calls us all to distance ourselves from one another. It is within your department’s power to release any elderly person in your custody with less than 12 months remaining on their sentence. I’m e-mailing to ask that you release all of those individuals immediately.”

For people like Ashley and her father, this is an urgent matter. It is imperative that people are actively reaching out. Join Ashley, BPI, and the Freedom to Learn Campaign IL in advocating for the release of the elderly and infirm from Illinois jails and prisons.

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