WBEZ | prisons http://www.wbez.org/tags/prisons Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Prisoners sue Illinois Department of Corrections over solitary confinement http://www.wbez.org/news/prisoners-sue-illinois-department-corrections-over-solitary-confinement-112241 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Solitary.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges that the Illinois Department of Corrections misuse of solitary confinement is &ldquo;cruel, inhumane [and] offensive to basic human decency.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We send people to solitary for far too long, for far too little,&rdquo; said Alan Mills, an attorney on the case.</p><p>Mills said people can be put in solitary confinement for minor infractions, like rolling their eyes at a guard.</p><p>&ldquo;No one I know has come out of long term isolation without being severely mentally injured,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Brian Nelson said he spent 23 years in solitary confinement.</p><p>&ldquo;I paced 18 hours everyday and they had to cut blood blisters off my feet,&quot; Nelson said. Consider an animal in the zoo, we don&rsquo;t put them in an environment like that.&rdquo;</p><p>Nelson said after solitary he had to be on multiple psychiatric drugs and see a psychiatrist. Even five years after his release, he still struggles with daily tasks, like riding a train or bus.</p><p>Those of us who have been in solitary all &ldquo;have a little closet somewhere. I got a placement in the basement I can go hide,&rdquo; said Nelson.</p><p>The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of three inmates, but is seeking class action status for all individuals who have been or are currently in solitary in Illinois prisons. According to the complaint, about 2,300 people in Illinois prisons are in solitary on any given day.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Corrections would not comment on the case.</p><p>After a press conference about the suit, a small group of reporters gathered around Nelson to take pictures of him in a tiny mockup cell.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Because of this cell here, my psychiatrist didn&rsquo;t want me to come today,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;As I talk about it, I can taste the cell again&mdash;raw, dusty concrete.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/prisoners-sue-illinois-department-corrections-over-solitary-confinement-112241 Panel to debate gun laws, how to reduce Illinois prison population http://www.wbez.org/news/panel-debate-gun-laws-how-reduce-illinois-prison-population-110496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/clothes rack.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A small panel of Illinois lawmakers meets this week with a lofty goal. It wants to find a way to reduce the prison population, cut down on recidivism, but still enforce strict laws.A small panel of Illinois lawmakers meets this week with a lofty goal. It wants to find a way to reduce the prison population, cut down on recidivism, but still enforce strict laws.</p><p>Illinois State Rep. Mike Zalewski is gathering the committee to look at the big picture on prisons. They&rsquo;ll discuss overcrowding in Illinois&rsquo; prisons and the billion dollars they cost taxpayers each year. Zalewski said he&rsquo;s tired of not doing anything about it.</p><p>&ldquo;I heard statistics somewhere that the average stay sometimes for a first-time marijuana user in the Department of Corrections is like 12 days if they don&rsquo;t get an I-bond. 12 days. That&rsquo;s insane,&rdquo; he said in an interview at his downtown Chicago law office.</p><p>But low level drug offenses isn&rsquo;t all Zalewski is looking at. He&rsquo;ll also be bringing back one proposal that&rsquo;s been debated for years, but never got enough support. A previous version of the proposal would&rsquo;ve send people convicted of certain gun crimes to prison for three years, end of story. No early release.</p><p>But even though it hasn&rsquo;t gotten enough &lsquo;yes&rsquo; votes, it hasn&rsquo;t gone away because Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy talks about it constantly.</p><p>&ldquo;Possession of a loaded firearm is not even considered a violent felony in the State of Illinois for sentencing purposes,&rdquo; McCarthy told reporters last week. &ldquo;Which is why you see the revolving door. Which is why you see people getting arrested with guns over and over again.&rdquo;</p><p>Zalewski has carried bills for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel before. But with this gun bill, he&rsquo;s up against some strong opponents.</p><p>The National Rifle Association is one. They say lawful gun owners who improperly carry a gun and get caught would have to go away for three years.</p><p>Many black lawmakers are also fighting it, saying just locking people up doesn&rsquo;t truly address gun violence issues in their communities.</p><p>Zalewski says a negotiated version might send someone to prison for less than three years, or punish someone more on their first gun offense.</p><p>&ldquo;I think people are so worn out by my bill and by the budget problems we have,&rdquo; Zalewski said. &ldquo;And they&rsquo;re sick of seeing the Department of Corrections have these budget issues and having guys sleep in gymnasiums, there&rsquo;s just a real appetite to, &lsquo;Let&rsquo;s do something.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Art Lurigio says it&rsquo;s good to recognize that Illinois&rsquo; criminal justice system need to change. It&rsquo;s just a matter of what that change is.</p><p>&ldquo;Research suggests that it&rsquo;s not the severity of the punishment that has a deterrent effect, but the certainty of punishment,&rdquo; said Lurigio, a psychology professor and criminologist at Loyola University.</p><p>Lurigio&rsquo;s point is that research shows people with guns don&rsquo;t necessarily worry about how long they&rsquo;ll spend behind bars, it&rsquo;s whether they&rsquo;ll get caught. He said alternatives to prison can actually have more of a positive effect than locking up low-level criminals.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re keeping a lot of money to keep people locked up in prison,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The time that they spend in prison is time away from them ever having an opportunity to change their life trajectory unless they&rsquo;re fully engaged in services.</p><p>That&rsquo;s where Father David Kelly comes in.</p><p>Because while Rep. Zalewski and lawmakers are dealing with end of the criminal justice process - prisons - Father Kelly deals with the beginning of that process: kids who are getting in trouble.</p><p>&ldquo;These drums are used in the juvenile detention center. We do drumming circles at juvenile detention center. So I&rsquo;m the chaplain at Cook County Juvenile, as well,&rdquo; said Kelly, who runs Precious Blood Ministries in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago.</p><p>As he gives me a tour of the center, which is a former school, he shows me a clothes rack with dress clothes for the teenagers who have upcoming court appearances. Precious Blood deals mostly with teens who have already been arrested and done time.</p><p>Kelly said whatever the laws are that do pass, he wants to see more neighborhood programs.</p><p>&ldquo;Rather than harsher laws, harsher gun penalties, let&rsquo;s punish our way out of this, I just don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s an end to that,&rdquo; Kelly said. &ldquo; I don&rsquo;t think that will get us anywhere but fill our jails and prisons and then take the minimum resources we do have here in the community away.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly said the young people he interacts with now are the ones statistics show are going to end up testing out the laws Rep. Zalewski is thinking of changing. And the best way to make sure they don&rsquo;t end up testing those laws and getting arrested doesn&rsquo;t come from legislators, but from getting more people in the community involved.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/panel-debate-gun-laws-how-reduce-illinois-prison-population-110496 Commentary: Is the exoneree movement leaving women behind? http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/commentary-exoneree-movement-leaving-women-behind-110206 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Jennifer Del Prete_photo by Tia Pearl Del Prete.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The innocence movement has largely left women behind. While men and women count themselves among the lawyers and crusaders who free the innocent, exonerated American women are few &ndash; 111 in all.</p><p>Women tally fewer than eight percent of the 1,368 known U.S. exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations. So far this year, 32 men have been exonerated and only five women. The gap last year was even greater: 81 men and nine women.</p><p>To be sure, fewer women enter prison than men. The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that women make up less than 7 percent of the prison population.&nbsp; But for offenses where the stakes of innocence are higher&mdash;violent crimes that typically carry longer sentences&mdash;they are more evenly distributed between men and women. In 2011, 37 percent of women prisoners and 54 percent of men prisoners were serving time for violent offenses.</p><p>While most exonerations involve a crime where someone else is responsible, this often does not hold true in women&rsquo;s cases. For the majority of female exonerations, no crime occurred in the case at all. Many wrongfully convicted women are simply guilty of being present when something went wrong. And proving their innocence is another matter. Unlike hundreds of men&rsquo;s cases, DNA evidence rarely signals a woman&rsquo;s innocence, playing a role in only seven known female cases.</p><p>In 2011, I researched cases for the Medill Justice Project, a journalism organization at Northwestern University where students investigate potentially wrongful convictions. The project has contributed to the exonerations of several prisoners &ndash; all male.</p><p>Out of the hundreds of letters I received from prisoners seeking help, women penned a few of them. Their cases would grip me.</p><p>One day I was talking to a lawyer about his former client, a male prisoner claiming innocence. The case wasn&rsquo;t very strong, he told me. I asked if there was someone whose case I should consider instead.</p><p>&ldquo;Jennifer Del Prete.&rdquo;</p><p>She was a suburban Chicago mother of two serving a 20-year sentence for murder.</p><p>When the lawyer told me hers was a shaken baby case, I cringed. Our project had a policy not to take such cases. They pose many challenges &ndash; the topic of alleged baby murder being foremost. Difficult to investigate, they hinge on medical evidence, science and rivaling expert witnesses. But given the growing skepticism around criminal convictions based on shaken baby syndrome as a diagnosis, I proceeded.</p><p>I reached one of Del Prete&rsquo;s lawyers by phone. She immediately told me: &ldquo;This is the case that keeps me up at night.&quot;</p><p>After vetting her case further, I pushed our project to investigate. Months later, a team of students were assigned to it. They filed public records requests and sought medical evidence. Now, about two years later, Del Prete, 43, has returned to her children.</p><p>Released April 30 in a rare order, she is free on bond while a state appeal persists. This comes in the wake of a 97-page ruling in January in which a federal judge wrote no reasonable jury would have found Del Prete of murder had all the evidence been known today.</p><p>The key evidence in Del Prete&rsquo;s case was a piece of paper: a 2003 letter that had never been turned over to her lawyers. In the note, a police detective warned the medical director who examined the infant (she later became the prosecution&rsquo;s expert witness) that the forensic pathologist had significant doubts about shaken baby syndrome. The letter was buried in a hefty package of police records. I took a first pass at the stack, halting when I read the letter.</p><p>It became clear that Del Prete, like many other wrongfully convicted women, was the victim of a tunnel-vision investigation turned situational prosecution. Since her trial, medical evidence has shown the 3 &frac12;-month-old under her care had pre-existing conditions mimicking shaken baby syndrome.</p><p>Del Prete now awaits exoneration. She joins a sorority of other wrongfully convicted women who have carved out a space for themselves in the innocence community. The nascent Women&rsquo;s Project, part of the flagship Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago, exclusively represents women prisoners and monitors cases across the country.</p><p>Earlier this year, the project hosted the largest gathering of female exonerees, many mothers or caretakers. In more than half of known female exonerations, the women were convicted of killing a family member or loved one. Kristine Bunch, an Indiana mother exonerated of murdering her 3-year-old son after an accidental home trailer fire, put it this way: &ldquo;As soon as you walk in those doors, you&rsquo;re labeled a baby killer.&rdquo;</p><p>For 10 years, Del Prete has suffered this label. But the label that matters the most remains. She is the woman whose case keeps people up at night.</p></p> Tue, 20 May 2014 12:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/commentary-exoneree-movement-leaving-women-behind-110206 James Kluppelberg's new home http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/james-kluppelbergs-new-home-109380 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/james_0_0_0.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>&ldquo;My kids grew up without me. I came out, they were grown. They had kids of their own. Now it&rsquo;s just like starting all over again.&rdquo;</em></p><p>&ldquo;DO YOU KNOW who this is?&rdquo; James said into the phone.</p><p>James Jr. was on the job when his dad called. He had reached out to the lawyers after seeing the story about James&rsquo; release on the news.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, you know,&rdquo; James Jr. answered, laughing slightly. Of course.</p><p>He was telling him he was working and wouldn&rsquo;t be able to talk too long when a supervisor urged him to take the call.</p><p>James Jr. took a break.</p><p>He asked how James&rsquo; night had been and when he could see him. James&rsquo; schedule was pretty open.</p><p>That evening, at the WGN-News studio in Chicago, James Jr. arrived where his dad was to be interviewed.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s someone here who looks just like you,&rdquo; someone on the news crew told him.</p><p>AFTER THE INTERVIEW, they met back at the lawyers&rsquo; office, driving separately. Another news interview was on deck. James Jr. waited.</p><p>He began to wonder how his dad was going to make it with only $14 and some change in his pocket. The lawyers planned to put him up at the Holiday Inn for about a week and were looking into some halfway houses &ndash; but no luck.</p><p>After the media left, James Jr. thought it best to take his dad to Kmart for the basics: jeans, shirts, belt, watch, wallet and sunglasses. Things a man needs to get by.</p><p>Next on the list: a steak dinner.</p><p>&ldquo;Give me a rare piece of meat and I&rsquo;m a happy man,&rdquo; James says.</p><p>As they talked, in a sense it felt as though they had never been robbed of 23 years. As though it was just a father and son grabbing a bite.</p><p>&ldquo;We just connected back that quickly,&rdquo; James says. &ldquo;It really was awesome to have that happen without all the awkwardness that you would think would come with something like that.&rdquo;</p><p>James Jr. dropped him off at the hotel in the early morning hours after a long night of catching up. He&rsquo;d pick him up the next morning to meet his two granddaughters for the first time.</p><p>&ldquo;HE&rsquo;S NOT GOING to be able to stay at that hotel,&rdquo; James Jr. told his wife Felicia when he got home.</p><p>The young couple had met as 15-year-olds on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest side, around 33rd and Western.</p><p>Two years later, they had their first daughter Melanie. Another two years and they were married, moving to Indiana, ready to leave the city and its risks behind them. Felicia remembers not being able to walk around her neighborhood without being whistled at, starting around age 12.</p><p>&ldquo;The gangs started getting really bad,&rdquo; Felicia says. &ldquo;The schools aren&rsquo;t good.&rdquo;</p><p>Their three-bedroom house in Merrillville, Ind., was small and cozy. They didn&rsquo;t have a dining room, and one of the bedrooms was a tight squeeze. But it was home to the budding family.</p><p>When Felicia asked what her husband thought about asking James to come live with them, she knew he might be against it. The couple had once opened their home to James Jr.&rsquo;s mother, Dawn, and the relationship went sour.</p><p>&ldquo;She robbed us, she was doing drugs,&rdquo; James Jr. says. &ldquo;Told her she&rsquo;d only be able to say if she was clean.&rdquo;</p><p>Their estrangement had added to the pain of her passing just before James was let out.</p><p>Felicia thought they should at least give the guy a chance. &ldquo;Family to us is a lot. It&rsquo;s everything to us.&rdquo;</p><p>JAMES JR. WAS MULLING it over when he picked up his dad the next day to meet his kids.</p><p>When they walked in the door, two big-eyed little girls, 10-year-old Melanie and 4-year-old Rylie, ran to James and hugged him.</p><p>James was stunned at the welcome.</p><p>&ldquo;That melted his heart,&rdquo; Felicia remembers.</p><p>On the agenda was a birthday party for a friend&rsquo;s baby. James joined them, though he wasn&rsquo;t feeling too comfortable around people.</p><p>&ldquo;Here I am being introduced to my granddaughters for the first time, and then on top of that, I&rsquo;m being sent to a birthday party with total strangers. A bunch of them,&rdquo; James says.</p><p>He toughed out the nerves, reeling at times, and ended up staying the weekend.</p><p>When James Jr. dropped his dad off on his way into work Monday, he had given it enough thought.</p><p>&ldquo;So I know you&rsquo;re not going to have a place to stay after the hotel,&rdquo; James Jr. said, backing into the question. &ldquo;Do you want to come stay with us?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;That would be great,&rdquo; James told his son. He felt humbled. &ldquo;Very, very, very humbled.&rdquo;</p><p>A FEW DAYS LATER, James Jr. pulled into the Holiday Inn for the last time. James didn&rsquo;t have much to his name, except for about a half dozen heavy file boxes full of case documents that he&rsquo;d accumulated in prison. They got a cart from the front desk and loaded them into the car.</p><p>Back in Merrillville, James Jr. and Felicia had prepared for his arrival, moving their daughters out of their bedroom to a small front space that they had been using as a computer room. James would sleep in their room. The girls would be fine, and it was only temporary. Just until they could get James his own bed.</p><p>&ldquo;Definitely a girly girl room,&rdquo; he recalls.</p><p>With a roof over his head and his family nearby, James slept in his granddaughters&rsquo; bunk bed. His new home came with pink Tinkerbell sheets.</p></p> Mon, 16 Dec 2013 11:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/james-kluppelbergs-new-home-109380 Chapter 5: Antione's pay day http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/chapter-5-antiones-pay-day-109281 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/antione_0 (1).png" alt="" /><p><p><em>&quot;There&#39;s a lot of pressure. It&#39;s phony. It&#39;s not real. People think you going to shower them with gifts and all these things. It&#39;s dangerous.&quot;</em></p><p>HOWARD JOSEPH, the real estate attorney who helped Antione win his freedom in 2002, wasn&rsquo;t finished with his case.</p><p>&ldquo;When I get him out, we&rsquo;re going to sue the city for millions of dollars,&rdquo; Mr. Joseph had told his son Rick.</p><p>Thirty-four days after Antione walked out of Cook County Jail, Mr. Joseph filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago and two police officers, alleging that they conspired to have Antione picked out of a lineup by coaching an eyewitness to identify him. Mr. Joseph also tried to hold them responsible for allegedly preventing another eyewitness, who could have cleared Antione as not being present at the shooting, from testifying at the trial. The third claim: Police had falsely arrested Antione under Illinois law because they lacked a warrant and probable cause.</p><p>Mr. Joseph was a few months shy of 77 when he filed the civil suit. He had moved his law practice from its Lakeview neighborhood office on Broadway to a spot on Lincoln further north. His office was full of antiques, furniture he had brought back to life over the years, having spent many weekends refinishing them in his garage.&nbsp;</p><p>Antione helped him clean and organize his new office space. Mr. Joseph never used a PC and conducted his law business on a typewriter. He maintained a haphazard filing system, folders stacked everywhere, and his office looked like a bomb went off in it. But he knew where everything was.</p><p>What he didn&rsquo;t know was the statute of limitations had run out on Antione&rsquo;s legal claims. Time-barred, the court said. He filed an appeal, but it was dismissed for lack of prosecution &ndash; meaning that Mr. Joseph didn&rsquo;t file the follow-up documents necessary to keep the lawsuit going.</p><p>He was too busy trying out a separate lawsuit in Cook County in May 2003, one year after Antione&rsquo;s release. The city&rsquo;s lawyers shot back saying that in light of the federal lawsuit, the claims should be dismissed because they had already been denied.</p><p>It was a Catch-22 that Mr. Joseph tried to argue his way out of, appealing the case further. The court gave him a shot, considering the case even though it didn&rsquo;t contain the proper format and citations. In January 2005, the three judges who decided the appeal, however, ended up ruling in favor of the defendants &ndash; the City of Chicago and the two police officers who investigated Antione&rsquo;s case in 1990.</p><p>The judges offered no opinion on whether the police had indeed conspired against Antione or not. In their order, they explained they couldn&rsquo;t grant the appeal because the facts of the case had already been argued before a different court. And they had lost.</p><p>It was nothing like those stories on the news. People would call Antione and tell him they had seen an exoneree on TV being awarded millions of dollars. Why couldn&rsquo;t he do the same? When would he get his big payout?</p><p>&quot;Man, he&#39;s lucky,&quot; Antione would tell them.</p><p>ANTIONE NEEDED A JOB.</p><p>He was sick of being dependent on other people for life&rsquo;s basic necessities. Every bar of soap, bottle of mouthwash or pack of underwear that he needed someone to buy for him chipped away at his pride.</p><p>In the months following his release, he spent much of his time with his mom, shuttling her to and from their family doctor&rsquo;s office as her health deteriorated. Kidney problems, they told him. Antione wanted to support her, his kids, himself.</p><p>A friend told him about a building management company that was looking to hire, and Antione put in his application. He told the hiring managers about his wrongful conviction and showed them his court documents. Within a few days, they told Antione the job was his, and he got fitted for a uniform. It was a Friday. It was a good day.<br /><br />By Monday, he was called back into the office. They told him they couldn&rsquo;t hire him after all. It was his background, which still turned up murder and attempted murder.<br /><br />&ldquo;That was one of the first serious cuts I took, you know? Not being able, then, to get a job,&rdquo; Antione says.<br /><br />Without any training, programs or resources from the state to help him, Antione tried to help himself. He went to find a man named Steven Garth who ran a construction company. Some of Antione&rsquo;s buddies were already working for him on big projects around Chicago. Antione put on his work boots and belt and waited around the project site for his chance.</p><p>&ldquo;Why are you standing there?&rdquo; Garth asked when he first saw him.</p><p>&ldquo;Man, cuz I need a job, you know, and I&rsquo;m going to stand here until somebody hire me because I know there is something here I can do.&rdquo;</p><p>Garth left. Antione stood and waited. It rained.</p><p>When Garth came back, he told Antione he would give him a shot. Come in Monday.</p><p>On Antione&rsquo;s first day, a supervisor let him know this was his one shot: &ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t work out, you don&rsquo;t work out.&rdquo;</p><p>It worked out.</p><p>&ldquo;I learned how to build a scaffold on the job. I learned how to safety check a scaffold on the job. I learned how to stack bricks on the job,&rdquo; Antione says. &ldquo;I wanted to become an asset to a company.&rdquo;</p><p>He worked on Chicago&rsquo;s Millennium Park, the $475 million project that started while Antione was in prison in 1997. The park sits on four feet of topsoil, beneath which is Styrofoam and other materials, a man-made foundation that keeps the park from collapsing. Antione helped lay the concrete, framing the ground. He worked on the concrete steps, slathering and smoothing until it held, upward.</p><p>Antione didn&rsquo;t work on Millennium Park long enough to see its completion in 2004. He was moved to another project. Antione enjoyed the work, and it paid the bills for a few years until one day, he had to quit. No one made him except himself.&nbsp;</p><p>His mom needed a kidney.</p></p> Mon, 02 Dec 2013 09:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/chapter-5-antiones-pay-day-109281 Chapter 4: James Kluppelberg's return home http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/chapter-4-james-kluppelbergs-return-home-109243 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/james_0_0.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>&ldquo;You know, I may have been deprived of my life for 25 years, but my children were deprived the privilege of a father. That&rsquo;s something that a lot of people overlook. There&rsquo;s a lot of victims in this. It isn&rsquo;t just the people who perished in the fire. It isn&rsquo;t just me. It spider-webs and laterals out to my children, my grandchildren, my wife, my sisters, my brother, my mother.&rdquo;</em><br /><br /><strong>&ldquo;TIM WHO?&rdquo;</strong> she asked.</p><p>&ldquo;No, it&rsquo;s Jim,&rdquo; James said into the phone.</p><p>&ldquo;OK. Jim who?&rdquo;</p><p>Rena&rsquo; knew a lot of Tim&rsquo;s and Jim&rsquo;s, friends and customers at the Econo Lodge Hotel in Silver City, New Mexico, where she worked, some 1,500 miles away from Chicago.</p><p>James told her it was him, from the letters.</p><p>Rena&rsquo; first got in touch with James through a prison correspondence service almost 20 years ago. She picked him at random from a list of inmates. His last name, &ldquo;Kluppelberg,&rdquo; started with a &lsquo;K,&rsquo; and so did hers. When Rena&rsquo; learned he was serving six life sentences, she felt safe he wouldn&rsquo;t get out and find her.</p><p>She wasn&rsquo;t looking for a relationship. On the contrary, she was trying to free herself of what had become burdensome correspondence with four other inmates, all sons of a friend who had passed away. Rena&rsquo; thought she&rsquo;d look into a prison correspondence service and see if an inmate on the other end found it valuable.</p><p>James was that inmate. His then-wife intercepted Rena&rsquo;s email and put them in touch. James gave Rena&rsquo; the information she needed to get her friend&rsquo;s boys set up.</p><p>Ten years later, when she was passing through Chicago before moving south, Rena&rsquo; took the weekend to visit James and say thanks. His wife accompanied her.</p><p>It was the first and only time during his incarceration that they met face-to-face. The group had one hour.</p><p>After his wife divorced him, James sent Rena&rsquo; a letter. He told her he didn&rsquo;t have many connections on the outside, and the two became pen pals. He wrote about five letters to her one, sometimes telling her the same story twice.</p><p>She became curious about his case.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ask me any question you want, and I&rsquo;ll answer it,&rdquo; he would write.</p><p>The more Rena&rsquo; read, the more she realized her pen pal was in the wrong place. Assured of his innocence, she wrote to him and asked: &ldquo;What do you look for in a woman?&rdquo;</p><p>She gave him her phone numbers in case he needed something, someday.</p><p>His first night as a free man, he called her from the Holiday Inn near Chicago&rsquo;s O&rsquo;Hare airport where his attorneys put him. He was to stay there until they could figure out where else he could go.</p><p>James and Rena&rsquo; had been talking for almost an hour when she stopped to ask: &ldquo;Wait a second, who&rsquo;s paying for this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The attorneys!&rdquo;</p><p>She hung up and called James back, explaining to him that costs had gone up since he&rsquo;d been in prison.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, it&rsquo;s too bad that I&rsquo;m in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;Dude, they make airplanes for a reason,&rdquo; Rena&rsquo; said.</p><p>They agreed she should request time off work and visit in a week&rsquo;s time.<br /><br /><strong>&ldquo;YOUR AUNT JUST POSTED </strong>something saying your dad&rsquo;s getting out,&rdquo; Felicia Kluppelberg told her husband James Kluppelberg Jr. by phone.</p><p>Felicia had been cruising Facebook at their Merrillville, Ind., home where they were raising two young daughters when she saw the news clip. She called her husband immediately. A journeyman electrician, he was out working at the Springfield Avenue pumping station in Chicago.</p><p>That night when he came home, they watched the news together. There James was, on the TV. This strange, yet familiar man was back in the world.</p><p>James Jr. hadn&rsquo;t seen him since he was a kid when his stepmother, one of James&rsquo; ex-wives, would take him for prison visits. He moved in with her when he was eight after spending a year in a homeless shelter with his mom, Dawn &ndash; also mother to his three half-brothers fathered by Duane Glassco, whose lies contributed to James&rsquo; wrongful conviction in 1989. About five years earlier, Dawn had left Glassco for James and brought James Jr. into the world.</p><p>On prison visits, the two James Kluppelbergs would sit together at one of many tables and chairs in a big open room. They would eat potato chips with Ketchup &ndash; the closest thing to French fries in the Department of Corrections. The potato chips had ridges, James Jr. remembers.</p><p>&ldquo;It had to be Ridges because it supports the ketchup,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Prison staff would take two Polaroid pictures during the visits. One photo to stay. One to go.</p><p>When James, Jr. was in junior high, the visits stopped &ndash; James&rsquo; wife wanted a divorce. James kept writing to his son, but the letters went unanswered. He mailed elaborate drawings as gifts he had purchased from other inmates who were artists. No response.</p><p>&ldquo;I thought he was guilty,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;There was no one that said he was innocent.&rdquo;</p><p>Except Dawn, the mother of his child.</p><p>A few years before James&rsquo; release, two detectives came to James Jr.&rsquo;s door. As they asked questions, he started to think perhaps he had been wrong. Perhaps his dad was innocent and his mom &ndash; even though she was cracked out whenever he heard her say so &ndash; was right.</p><p>James never got the chance to see Dawn after his release. Cancer and drug addiction got her less than two weeks before he won his freedom. Some of her final days were spent at a nursing home next to Cook County Jail where James had entered the system almost a quarter of a century ago, presumably forever.</p><p>In hospice, she ripped out her own oxygen tube and took her final breaths. James Jr. and his brothers pooled their money together for her cremation and memorial service at a Baptist Church in Tinley Park, Southwest of Chicago.</p><p>James Jr. had lost his mother &ndash; did he ever have her? &ndash; and now it seemed, as James&rsquo; face flashed across the TV screen, he might be gaining a father.</p></p> Mon, 25 Nov 2013 11:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/exoneree-diaries/chapter-4-james-kluppelbergs-return-home-109243 Illinois DOC says revised gun bill would still be costly http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-doc-says-revised-gun-bill-would-still-be-costly-109185 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP168520649673_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois prison officials say revised legislation stiffening penalties for gun crimes would still cost hundreds of millions of dollars and add inmates to the crowded correctional system.</p><p>The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers <a href="http://bit.ly/1fc0j4h">reports</a>&nbsp;the figures come from the Illinois Department of Corrections.</p><p>The agency says the latest version of the gun bill would add nearly 2,500 inmates to the state&#39;s prison system and cost another $579 million over 10 years. That covers operating and construction costs.</p><p>The amended bill is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and makes illegal gun-holders serve more prison time. But the measure stalled in the Illinois House after members of the Legislative Black Caucus stopped the bill through a procedural move.</p><p>The original measure required a three-year mandatory sentence for first-time offenders.</p></p> Tue, 19 Nov 2013 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-doc-says-revised-gun-bill-would-still-be-costly-109185 Watchdog to judges: Stop putting kids with mental health needs in prison http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-judges-stop-putting-kids-mental-health-needs-prison-108788 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IDJJ_Admin_550_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A new report from the prison watchdog John Howard Association says mental health treatment in Illinois youth prisons is so bad that judges need to stop sending kids with mental health needs to them.</p><p>The scathing report was released on Thursday. It is the latest in a series of studies that are highly critical of the care and education within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.</p><p>The report focuses on the youth prison in Kewanee, about 150 miles southwest of Chicago. That&rsquo;s the prison where the department sends its most seriously mentally ill prisoners. It also houses juvenile sex offenders and youth who need maximum-security detainment.</p><p>John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, says the problems at Kewanee stem from the decision to combine the department&rsquo;s three &ldquo;neediest and most difficult&rdquo; groups of kids in a remote youth prison with inadequate resources.</p><p>That&rsquo;s where the problems begin. But according to the report, it is not where they end.</p><p>Report author Jennifer Vollen-Katz found Kewanee to be lacking in staffing for security, mental health and education. The result is &ldquo;an environment that is unsustainable, unsafe and counterproductive,&rdquo; Vollen-Katz wrote..</p><p>Maki says more than a third of the needed mental health positions are unfilled, even though there is money in the budget for them. That means kids are missing out on more than 250 hours of crucial mental health care every week.</p><p>Failing to fill authorized positions &ldquo;points to [a failure] at the top&rdquo; of the department, Maki said. And he is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of progress.</p><p>&ldquo;For prison systems, most of the problems they deal with are mostly beyond their control...The problems at Kewanee are problems that the agency has control over,&rdquo; Maki said.</p><p>Maki said staffing is so inadequate that judges shouldn&rsquo;t send kids with mental health needs to the department any more, because they are bound to end up in Kewanee, and they won&rsquo;t get adequate treatment there.</p><p>A clerk for Judge Michael Toomin - who heads the Cook County juvenile courts - said the judge was unavailable for an interview, but that he has no opinion on the suggestion from the John Howard Association.</p><p>Judge Sophia Hall, who presides over the juvenile court&#39;s resource section, said the key is to provide mental health services to kids before they enter the justice system. But she said that takes resources the state doesn&#39;t really have.</p><p>&quot;The question I would have, and that anyone would have, is where do we put kids with mental health issues?&quot; she asked.</p><p>The John Howard report follows a trio of reports released by the Illinois ACLU on Monday as part of a class action lawsuit against the Department of Juvenile Justice, each focusing on different areas of trouble for the juvenile justice agency.</p><p>Dr. Louis Kraus spent time in Kewanee - and all the youth prisons - talking to prisoners and observing the conditions. According to his report, Kraus found mentally ill prisoners at Kewanee spending an excessive amount of time in their cells, unable to get treatment and education because security staff was about 20 guards short of its adequate level. Kraus also found youth in specialized treatment units were spending up to 24 hours a day confined to their rooms - and the confinement rooms were filthy, with food and other debris covering the floor.</p><p>Some of the words Kraus used in his report to describe the department&rsquo;s mental health treatment, policy and staffing are: insufficient, inadequate, improper, deficient and dangerous.</p><p>The Department of Juvenile Justice has not responded to repeated requests for comment.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a></em>.</p></p> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-judges-stop-putting-kids-mental-health-needs-prison-108788 Rockford’s new parolee database could be model for state http://www.wbez.org/news/rockford%E2%80%99s-new-parolee-database-could-be-model-state-108291 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rockford.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 8.7.13</em></p><p>The Rockford Police Department is working with the state of Illinois to develop a new way to keep track of people on parole and prepare reentry services for the ex-offenders.</p><p>Officials say if it works, it could serve as a model for the rest of the state.</p><p>The northwest suburb will use a $400,000 grant from the federal government to build a parolee database that will be the first of its kind in Illinois.</p><p>The new database will inform local authorities when a parolee from the Illinois Department of Corrections is settling in their area.</p><p>It will also include information on each parolee, like known addictions or potential homelessness.</p><p>Rockford applied for the grant through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.</p><p>Authority spokeswoman Cristin Evans wrote in an email that the grant will help Rockford arrange for reentry services for parolees with local providers before they arrive in Rockford.</p><p>&ldquo;American Reinvestment and Recovery Justice Assistance Grants, provided to Illinois by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), were used to support this project. Offender community re-entry is a BJA priority, data exchange projects/collaboration is a BJA priority, and [the] Rockford Police Department [is] replicating a proven model used in Racine, Wisconsin.,&rdquo; Evans wrote.</p><p>Police Chief Chet Epperson said people on probation and parole account for 12 to 15 percent of weekly arrests.</p><p>Tom Shaer, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said his department is working closely with Rockford to develop an infrastructure for data sharing.</p><p>&ldquo;Just as consumer information sharing has evolved and rapidly improved, so too can public servants improve their sharing of information,&rdquo; Shaer said.</p><p>Shaer said this kind of database is something the state &ldquo;definitely&rdquo; wants to expand statewide. And he said Rockford will be a test for that potential expansion.</p><p>&ldquo;What better way to share data than for these purposes?&rdquo; Shaer asked. &ldquo;The more information that is shared, and the quicker it is shared is better for everyone.&rdquo;</p><p>The new database could address what Rockford officials say is a flaw in the current system: that they sometimes aren&rsquo;t told about ex-offenders until a month or two after they arrive in the city.</p><p>But Shaer said that isn&#39;t true, and that the department always notifies local police before parolees are released.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that it&rsquo;s bad now or broken now, but if you can make it better, why not do that?&rdquo; Shaer said of IDOC&rsquo;s notification system.</p><p>According to Evans, the project will be completed before Sept. 30.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 15:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rockford%E2%80%99s-new-parolee-database-could-be-model-state-108291 Egyptian politics, Iraq Veterans Against the War and a Pakistani jail break http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-08-01/egyptian-politics-iraq-veterans-against-war-and-pakistani-jail-break <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP090504016818.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cherif Bassiouni weighs in on conflict in Egypt. Former Iraq veterans are gathering in Chicago this week to discuss the future of U.S. militarism. The Pakistani legislature has elected a new president. Renata Sago fills us in on new investment happening in Haiti.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F103599005&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-iraq-veterans-against-the-war.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-iraq-veterans-against-the-war" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Egyptian politics, Iraq Veterans Against the War and a Pakistani jail break" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-08-01/egyptian-politics-iraq-veterans-against-war-and-pakistani-jail-break