Legal resources for people in prison in Illinois

John Howard Association of Illinois

70 East Lake Street, Suite 410

Chicago, IL 60601

Serves: IL

Focus area/description: John Howard Association is Illinois' only independent, nonprofit citizen correctional oversight organization. Our mission is to monitor prisons and advance independent oversight of carceral systems to promote humane treatment and increased transparency. As long as there are prisons, we aspire to have a system that is equitable, reduces harm, and respects people's humanity.

JHA is one of the country's oldest prison reform organizations, and one of only three nonprofit organizations nationwide that monitors their state's prison system. Founded in 1901, JHA has become a leading voice in Illinois criminal justice reform, and a well-known and respected prison watchdog organization.

We lead monitoring visits inside every Illinois prison - adult and juvenile - to observe conditions, treatment, and programming; we speak to and survey incarcerated people and prison staff; and we request and analyze prison data. We receive letters from people in prison as well as emails and phone calls from their loved ones, and code and track issues and concerns shared with us in those communications. We then document, report on, and testify to the realities experienced by Illinois' incarcerated population. Our reports identify issues and forward recommendations for change. In sum, JHA's work provides a window into an otherwise closed system; this is critical to exposing the most serious issues and getting them addressed.

JHA is the eyes and ears of the public inside Illinois' prisons. We focus on the realities of what people incarcerated in Illinois are experiencing and what they are concerned about; our advocacy priorities are based upon the their priorities. We learn from the experiences and perspectives of those who are incarcerated, and bring their voices and solutions to important conversations in order to mobilize change.

John Howard Association of Illinois confirmed this listing on July 08, 2024.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois

150 N. Michigan Ave.

Suite 600

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 201-9740 (email)

312-201-9760 (fax)

Serves: IL

Focus area/description: The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to protecting freedom, liberty, equality and justice for all within the United States. The ACLU accomplishes its goals through litigation, lobbying and education programs. The ACLU-IL advocates on behalf of children in the troubled Illinois juvenile justice system, as well as adults in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The ACLU-IL does not accept walk-ins or appointments. Please contact the Intake Department via mail, phone, fax, or email.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois confirmed this listing on July 10, 2024.

These national self-help guides may be useful to people in prison in Illinois:

The Jailhouse Lawyers Manual is a free guide to legal rights and procedures designed for people in prison. It contains nine sections designed to help incarcerated people learn about their rights, file lawsuits in both state and federal court, attack their conviction or sentence, and address the conditions of their imprisonment. It also contains information about the rights of incarcerated people related to health, safety, religious freedom, and more. We suggest accessing the online version of the manual and mailing the relevant chapters to your incarcerated loved one.

The Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is a free resource for people in prison who want to file a federal lawsuit addressing poor conditions in prison or abuse by prison staff. This guide will not help challenge convictions or sentences or provide guidance on actions in state courts. It also has 14 appendices that provide sample complaints, legal forms, and guidance on how to reach out to journalists, among other topics. You can download relevant chapters of the handbook and mail them to your incarcerated loved one or request to have a copy mailed to them.

A challenge to our colleagues:

We built the internet's first always-up-to-date list of legal services for incarcerated people. Can you make a similar list for a different kind of resource?

Problem: There are too many outdated resource lists floating around.

Our Solution: Have one resource list that one organization checks each year.

Our Method: Inspired by the Cincinnati Books for Prisoners group, we made a list of every legal services organization on every resource list we could find. Then we send a letter by snail mail to each organization each year asking them to confirm/update their listing. If they respond, we include them on the site for the next 365 days. All the organization needs to do is to sign the form we send them and mail it back in the enclosed envelope. If they don't respond, we keep them on our mailing list and try again next year.

This way, any incarcerated person using the list can be assured that the organization they are writing to recently did exist and was responding to mail. And if an organization fails to respond for some reason (staff turnover, postal problems, the dog ate our letter, etc.) they get another chance next year.

It's a win for everyone. We've built a database for legal services. What list can your organization edit?

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