[11:04 AM] Tracking ID UA-111875230-1
Bill Ryan is a long-time prisoner rights activist. Originally from Maysville, Kentucky, Ryan was born on a tobacco farm to a family of Irish sharecroppers and grew up in the segregated South. His passion for justice started at a young age, when he slowly began to realize that many of his African-American friends couldn’t even enter some of the buildings that he could. Professionally, Ryan was the head of the statewide child abuse system at the Department of Child and Family Services in Illinois. He became a leading activist against the death penalty in the early 1990s, when his daughter Katy Ryan sent him a copy of the anti-death penalty memoir Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean. Since then, he has organized against the death penalty, for elderly prisoners, and keeps in daily contact with numerous incarcerated people all across the state.
William Peeples is serving life in prison for fatally stabbing his neighbor, Dawn Dudovic, in 1988. Peeples was initially sentenced to Illinois death row, where he was incarcerated for over a decade before the state transmuted his sentence to life. He met Ryan in 1994, while still on death row, and the two have continued their relationship to this day. Peeples has also written for Stateville Speaks, a publication written by and for incarcerated people, and continues to fight for clemency.
Renaldo Hudson grew up surrounded by drugs and violence, a childhood that left him struggling to cope with daily life. After two trials, the first declared a mistrial, Hudson was sentenced to death in 1987 for the 1983 murder of 73-year-old Folke Peterson. While on death row, Hudson began painting, and started his friendship with Ryan. Hudson has served over half his life in prison, and continues to appeal for clemency.
Janet Jackson is serving a life sentence for arranging the murder of her husband, who was beaten to death on November 23, 1986 in a farmhouse in rural Viola, IL. She was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, armed robbery and solicitation to commit murder during a May 1987 jury trial. Jackson applied for clemency several times, all of which were rejected, and has a plea open at the moment. She and her husband both worked at the post office. Jackson has said her husband beat her, and she suffered from battered woman syndrome. Since her incarceration, Jackson has been awarded a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in Divinity, as well as a doctorate in Theology and Christian counselling, from Shalom Bible College & Seminary. She currently walks with a cane and suffers from severe pain in both knees.
Paula Sims was convicted to life in prison for the 1990 of the 1986 murder of her 13-day daughter and the 1989 murder of her six-week old daughter by suffocation. She said she was suffering from post-partum psychosis, which is similar but more severe than post-partum depression. She initially said they had been abducted by a masked man. In 2015, her ex-husband and son died in a car crash in Mississippi. Since her incarceration, Sims has undergone intensive therapy and channels much of her energy into her friendship with Janet Jackson, as well as her drawing talent.