Final Report Encourages State to Take Legislative Action
Illinois is set to implement a legislative action plan that will significantly improve prison higher education (HEP) after the completion of an assessment and analysis by the Higher Education in Prison Task Force. higher education in Illinois prison.
The working group was created by Joint House Resolution 27 (HJR 27), legislation co-sponsored by State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), and passed unanimously by the Illinois General Assembly last fall.
After five months of discussion and deliberation, the task force adopted 31 recommendations for the Governor and General Assembly that will create stronger state support for higher education in Illinois prisons and a better access to these programs for incarcerated persons. Adopting these data-driven recommendations will position Illinois as a national example in the field of HEP. The full final report is available here: https://icjia.illinois.gov/about/publications/illinois-higher-education-in-prison-task-force-2022-report
The Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (IL-CHEP) and HEP advocates applaud the work of the task force. “This task force presents an exciting and timely opportunity to create lasting change for higher education in Illinois prisons and demonstrates how Illinois is taking advantage of this crucial time to evaluate the HEP nationwide. state and plan for equitable expansion and adequate protections for HEP students and programs,” said Rebecca Ginsburg, founding member of IL-CHEP and the Freedom to Learn (FTL) campaign and director of the Education Justice Project at the HEP. ‘University of Illinois.
The working group began meeting in February and held its final meeting on July 28, 2022. It was tasked with four objectives:
- Obtain and analyze existing data on HEP in Illinois;
- Identify data points that need to be collected to enable a meaningful statewide assessment of the HEP;
- Assess HEP barriers and opportunities in Illinois and possibilities for incarcerated individuals to pursue higher education upon release; and
- Recommend a legislative action plan to expand access to HEP in the state.
IL-CHEP was instrumental in ensuring that the voices of HEP advocates, educators, IL-CHEP members and stakeholders were heard throughout the process. IL-CHEP has also consistently urged the task force to solicit and secure input directly from incarcerated men and women.
In addition, IL-CHEP submitted two public comment letters: one joint letter of IL-CHEP and FTL and a letter with input from currently incarcerated people on their experiences with education. An academic currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center commented, “Prisons need to get back to rehabilitation through education programs. [We] should be allowed to continue their studies insofar as [we] want to. Only positive things can come from an educated individual.
Ginsburg and Sarah Ross, founding member of IL-CHEP and founder and co-director of the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education (P+NAP) project, were appointed to the task force and supported its success by providing expertise on HEP and administration of HEP programs in Illinois. Other appointed members of the task force included government officials, university administrators, educators and formerly incarcerated people. The task force was led by Orlando Mayorga, a graduate of the Education Justice Project program at Danville Prison, Danville Community College and Northeastern Illinois University, who currently works as the JEO Initiative/McCormick Reintegration Policy Coordinator at the Office of Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.
“We express our deepest gratitude to Rep. Ammons for her legislative support and her unwavering commitment to hope, humanity, and human potential,” said Pablo Mendoza, program manager at P+NAP. “We are grateful to have an ally in Springfield. His dedication to fundamental human rights will help pave the way for quality educational opportunities in prison that are transformative not only for students, but also for their families and the communities they call home.
FTL and HEP advocates plan to push for legislation in 2023 that expands access to high-quality HEP programs throughout Illinois. For more information or to get involved, visit ilchep.org Where freedom-to-learn.net.
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