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A close-up photo of two people holding hands. One of the people appears to be wearing a prison uniform.

There are dozens of organizations in Illinois serving people in prisons and jails, and their families and friends on the outside.

Eric Risberg

Prisoncast! resource guide for families and people incarcerated

Prisoncast! is an audio and journalism project made with and for the community it serves – people inside Illinois prisons, and their loved ones on the outside.

But in order to connect with this community, we get help from a league of organizations – religious, activist and educational – who work on behalf of Illinois’ incarcerated population.

All of these groups serve people in prison or jail, people just getting out, and their families and loved ones on the outside. Below is a guide to these groups, the services they provide and how to connect with them. If you would like to add another organization to this list, or suggest edits, email prisoncast@wbez.org.

Companions Journeying Together (CJT)

CJT connects incarcerated people with the outside world in tangible ways. That includes pen pal groups and Aunt Mary’s Storybook, in which incarcerated parents make recordings of themselves reading books to their child, both of which the child receives. The storybook project is currently available at Cook, DeKalb, Kane, Kendall and Will County Jails.

Location: PO Box 457, Western Springs, Ill., 60558

Contact: Call 630-481-6231, email Scott McWilliams at scott@cjtinc.com, or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://cjtinc.org/

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI)

Founded in 1867, LSSI provides affordable housing services, home-based senior care, mental health and addiction services, youth and family services, prisoner and family ministry, intellectual and developmental services and disability services for those impacted by the Illinois carceral system. It also runs the Storybook Project Program, which records incarcerated adults reading bedtime stories to their children. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Location: 1001 E. Touhy Ave., ste. 50, Des Plaines, Ill., 60018

Contact: Call 847-635-4600 or their hearing-impaired line at 847-390-1460, email info@lssi.com or submit a contact form online. To connect with the Storybook Project Program, call Kevin Copeland at (224) 423-1932 or email kevin.copeland@lssi.org.

Website: https://www.lssi.org/

Contextos

Contextos is a Chicago-based nonprofit that works in schools, in communities and in carceral settings to prevent violence and support people involved with the criminal justice system. It runs a writing program at Cook County Jail that helps incarcerated people write memoirs. Read them here, and check out the powerful memoir written by Carl, who was featured in the Dec. 17th episode of Prisoncast!.

Location: 2240 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL. 60616

Contact: Email chicago@contextos.org.

Website: contextos.org

Saint Leonard’s Ministries

Saint Leonard’s was founded in 1954 by the former chaplain of what’s now Cook County Jail. The nonprofit works to support people as they are released from prison. Located on Chicago’s West Side, its services include free housing; job training; education; mental and physical health care, and substance abuse treatment.

Location: 2100 W. Warren Blvd. Chicago, Ill. 60612

Contact: Call 312-738-1414 or submit a contact form.

Website: slministries.org

The Reunification Ride

The Reunification Ride program offers free bus rides to Logan Correctional Center about once a month so that children and families of women incarcerated there can visit their loved ones. The visits are organized by the Women’s Justice Institute, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration and Nehemiah Trinity Rising, with legal support from Ascend Justice.

Website & contact information: https://www.facebook.com/ReunificationRide/

Archdiocese of Chicago, Kolbe House Jail Ministry

Kolbe House Jail Ministry provides prayer and communion services and one-on-one pastoral ministry for people in Cook and Lake County Jails, and to families with loved ones in jail. They also have a restorative justice program and minister to people leaving jail, providing food, clothing, CTA passes and connections to housing for people who have recently been released. The group is affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Location: 2434 S. California Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60608

Contact: Call 773-247-0070 or email info@kolbehouseministry.org

Website: https://pvm.archchicago.org/human-dignity-solidarity/kolbe-house-jail-ministry

Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA)

CGLA specializes in providing legal support to people impacted by the criminal legal system. This includes criminal records research, legal consultation, petition filing and full representation. It also advocates for policy reforms, connects clients with social workers and convenes the Visible Voice group, composed of formerly incarcerated women who meet monthly to share information, develop skills and discuss policy.

Location: 6 S. Clark St., Chicago, Ill., 60603

Contact: Call 312-738-2452 or submit an application online.

Website: https://www.cgla.net/

Chicago Torture Justice Center (CTJC)

CTJC focuses on healing and wellness services and resources for people affected by police violence. Their vast programming includes trauma-informed care, community counseling, art therapy and community organizing.

Location: 6337 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60637

Contact: Call 773-966-6666, email info@chicagotorturejustice.org or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.chicagotorturejustice.org/

Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices

The Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Practices offers trauma-informed therapeutic services to people of color impacted by violent crime and incarceration. These services include workshops for young men of color about their civil rights during police encounters; an intervention program for women of color affected by gun violence and incarceration; and a therapeutic support model for men of color who have served long prison sentences.

Contact: Call (708) 540-3040 or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.dbecenter.org/

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)

The Washington, D.C.-based FAMM advocates for prison and sentencing reform, as well as increased use of compassionate release and executive clemency. The group works to influence policies about incarceration at the state and federal level.

Location: 1100 H St. NW, ste.1000, Washington, D.C. 20005

Contact: Call 202-822-6700 or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://famm.org/

FirstFollowers

Operating in Champaign County, FirstFollowers provides peer mentorship to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones. They also offer employment assistance, family reunification services and referrals to services such as housing and transportation for people recently released from prison.

Location:

Drop-in Center: 314 Cottage Court, Champaign, lll., 61820

Mailing Address: PO Box 8923, Champaign, Ill., 61826

Contact: Call 217-607-1131 or email firstfollowerscu@gmail.com.

Website: https://www.firstfollowersreentry.com/

Illinois Prison Project (IPP)

IPP trains and provides attorneys to directly represent people in Illinois prisons. They also engage in policy advocacy and education programming led by formerly incarcerated people.

Location: 53 W. Jackson Blvd., ste. 452, Chicago, Ill., 60604

Contact: Call 312-324-4463, email info@illinoisprisonproject.org or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.illinoisprisonproject.org/

Imagine Justice

Imagine Justice is an arts- and storytelling-focused group that uplifts the voices of incarcerated people. The nonprofit oversees a music-training program called Rebirth of Sound, which takes place in a professional recording studio in Stateville Correctional Center. They’ve also produced documentary films and a national tour of prison performances by the hip-hop artist Common.

Contact: Submit a contact form online.

Website: https://imaginejusticenow.com/

John Howard Association (JHA)

JHA is a prison watchdog group that independently monitors Illinois correctional facilities through regular observational visits. They also analyze and report on Illinois Department of Corrections data, facilitate communications for people inside Illinois prisons and promote independent oversight and transparency of carceral systems.

Location: 70 E. Lake St., Chicago, Ill., 60601

Contact: Call 312-291-9183 or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.thejha.org/

Parole Illinois

Parole Illinois advocates for policy changes in Illinois and works to educate the public on sentencing practices. The group also produces fact sheets, showcases artwork by incarcerated people and publishes writing about parole reform by people inside and outside of prison.

Location: 601 S. California Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60612

Contact: Email paroleillinois@gmail.com or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://paroleillinois.org/

Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP)

PNAP connects teaching artists and scholars with incarcerated students at Stateville Correctional Center for workshops, lectures and classes on poetry, visual arts, creative writing, political theory, social studies and history. Tuition-free degrees are possible through PNAP’s partnership with the University Without Walls program at Northeastern Illinois University.

Location: 800 W. Buena Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60613

Contact: Email contactpnap@gmail.com.

Website: https://p-nap.org/

Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR)

Founded by Catholic priests, PBMR is a restorative justice organization that provides arts, education and workforce-development services for people who have been affected by the criminal justice system. It also provides transitional housing for men who are released after serving at least 20 years in prison and conducts restorative justice circles. The group primarily serves residents of the Englewood and Back of the Yards areas of Chicago’s South Side, as well as people who are currently incarcerated.

Location:

5114 S. Elizabeth St., Chicago, Ill., 60609

Mailing Address: PO Box 09379, Chicago, Ill., 60609

Contact: Call 773-952-6643 or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.pbmr.org/

Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM)

The Washington, D.C. area-based Prison Fellowship Ministries advocates and organizes for prison justice reform and oversees a robust portfolio of programs from in-prison educational curricula to their Angel Tree Sports Camp for children of incarcerated parents. The group is known as the world’s largest Christian prison-outreach organization.

Location: 44180 Riverside Pkwy., Lansdowne, Va., 20176

Contact: Call 1-(800)-206-9764 or email info@pfm.org.

Website: https://www.prisonfellowship.org/

Restore Justice Illinois

Restore Justice comprises two sister organizations. Restore Justice Illinois advocates for policy changes related to incarceration, and supports political candidates pursuing criminal legal system reform. The group provides guidance to people interested in running for office, connects members of the public with their local legislators and produces a voter’s guide for Illinois voters. The Restore Justice Foundation also provides support groups, training and resources for families with incarcerated loved ones, and support and job training for people getting out of prison.

Location:

Mailing Address:

PO Box 101099, Chicago, Ill., 60610

Contact: Submit a contact form online.

Website: https://www.restorejustice.org/

The Marshall Project

The Marshall Project is a national nonprofit news organization covering the criminal justice system, including prisons and jails across the country. The outlet produces news and information for incarcerated people under The Marshall Project Inside; the print publication News Inside, which circulates across 1,000 correctional facilities, including in Illinois; and a video series for low-literacy incarcerated people called “Inside Story.”

Location: 156 W. 56th St., Third Floor, New York, N.Y., 10019

Contact: Call 212-803-5200, email info@themarshallproject.org or contact staff via the staff page.

Website: https://www.themarshallproject.org/

The Safer Foundation

The Safer Foundation helps find jobs for people who are previously incarcerated and currently incarcerated. It conducts strengths and skills assessments, provides health and wellness services and places clients in educational and job-training programs.

Location: 571 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Ill., 60661

Contact: Call 312-922-2200, email info@saferfoundation.org or submit a contact form online.

Website: https://saferfoundation.org/

Uptown People’s Law Center

The Uptown People’s Law Center provides legal support for incarcerated people, as well as those who are unhoused, disabled or tenants. It runs prisoners’ rights and tenants’ rights programs, take on class-action lawsuits and represent disabled, formerly incarcerated adults in Chicagoland seeking Social Security benefits.

Location: 4413 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, Ill., 60640

Contact: Call 773-769-1411 or email uplc@uplcchicago.org.

Website: https://www.uplcchicago.org/

Women’s Justice Institute (WJI)

The Women’s Justice Institute promotes decarceration, harm reduction and health and wellbeing for women and their families affected by the carceral system. WJI is also part of a group of organizations that helps organize bus trips to Illinois women’s prisons so families can visit their loved ones inside.

Location: 2150 S. Canalport Ave., ste. 4A-1, Chicago, Ill., 60608

Contact: Email contact@womensjusticeinstitute.org.

Website: https://womensjusticeinstitute.org/

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