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Crime in the American imagination has always been a mutable and terrifying specter, and at few times has this fear of the criminal been more clearly played out than in the criminal justice system’s response to a rising drug epidemic and urban violence. In Chicago, the 1980s and 1990s saw the War on Drugs play out on the city’s streets through rising urban violence, drug addiction and the social discord that comes with both of these ills. In response, localities enforced harsh penalties and three-strikes legislation. As a result, today the United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other country, with black men incarcerated at twice the rate of Latino men, and three times the rate of white men.
In Illinois, as around the country, the elderly prison population has been ballooning - in 2005 only 6 percent of prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections were over the age of 50, while in 2017 the figure was 17 percent. While many of the prisoners may be getting older, prisons are no better equipped to handle the complex needs of an aging population. And along with the difficult of caring for elderly imprisoned people, the public cost grows exponentially as prisoners age.
To find out more about prison reform efforts in Illinois, visit:
The John Howard Association of Illinois - http://www.thejha.org/
Uptown People’s Law Center - http://uplcchicago.org/
Illinois Families Against Mandatory Minimums - http://famm.org/states-map/illinois/
Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform - http://www.icjia.org/cjreform2015/index.html
Stateville Speaks - a newsletter written by and for incarcerated folks - https://www.neiu.edu/academics/college-of-arts-and-sciences/departments/justice-studies-department/stateville-speaks