The Illinois Prison Project works towards a saner and more humane prison system by using executive commutation as remedy against excessive sentences. The Project screens, organizes, and files commutation petitions on behalf of aging and infirm incarcerated people.
Extraordinarily long sentences continue to drive Illinois’ prison population, where more than 11,600 people currently serve sentences that are 20 years or longer. Minority groups have been disproportionately affected by excessive sentences and their harms; over 64% of the people serving terms greater than 20 years are black, despite the fact the fact that Illinois is only 14.6% black. Without parole or other mechanism for routine release, excessive sentences incarcerate people far longer than necessary for public safety. Excessive sentences also drive up the costs of incarceration, for aging people are 2 to 5 times more expensive to incarcerate than other people because of health care costs. Today, more than 12% of Illinois’ prison population is elderly, a huge driver of the Department of Corrections’s $1.6 billion budget. The human cost of this needless incarceration is staggering; last year, 877,095 prison days were served by elderly people serving sentences of greater than 20 years.
Commutation is the only avenue for early release from an incarcerative sentence, but very few commutation requests are filed or granted, in part because there are no legal groups in Illinois that routinely seek commutation on behalf of incarcerated clients. The Illinois Prison Project seeks to change that, and hopes to restore and expand commutation as a concrete tool to reduce the harm caused by excessive sentencing.
The Illinois Prison Project works towards a saner and more humane prison system by using executive commutation as remedy against excessive sentences. The Project screens, organizes, and files commutation petitions on behalf of aging and…