Letter Writing to Those Inside Prison Walls
Join us. Becoming a pen pal to those who are incarcerated in our Illinois prisons is more than about getting mail. It is about establishing a mutual relationship. You will have the opportunity of being proximate, learning together and giving voice to someone on the inside.
We have five new UCH pen pals who are establishing a relationship with their pen pals who are incarcerated. There is patience, sharing, testing, and excitement in this process. All of the UCH pen pals, old and new, are supported in a monthly on- line discussion with Rev. K Mooney, as well as a quarterly meeting with the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Chicago.
You can join this ministry at any time. Please contact us.
Prison Ministry Team Leaders
Advocacy: Elder Parole for Illinois
This legislative session, we are again working to pass legislation bringing parole back to Illinois. There are bills in the Illinois Senate and House focused on giving the opportunity for a parole hearing for people who are incarcerated those 60 years and older who have been incarcerated 20 years or more and those incarcerated at least 25 years, As of this writing, we don't have the bill numbers.
Our group is called Citizens for Parole, and is a coalition of people on the inside, returning citizens, long-time advocates, attorneys, parents of people who are incarcerated, your UCH Prison Ministry advocates and more. If you want to be more involved please reach out. Here's the website elderparole.org
We can use your help this spring when we need you to turn in a witness slip electronically to the committees, or contact your state senator or representative.
LINK TO RECORDING OF STATEVILLE CALLING PANEL DISCUSSION
Moderator: Marian Honel-Wilson, Chair, Racial Equity Team, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale
Rev. Allison Farnum, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois
Jeanne Bishop, Author, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace With My Sister's Killer
Oscar "Smiley" Parham, now a free man (formerly incarcerated)
Bill Ryan, Prison Reformer and Activist featured in the film Stateville Calling
Watch recording on Zoom link below:
How Formerly Incarcerated Firefighters Are Getting the Jobs and Pay They Deserve
In 2014, Brandon Smith—unemployed but trained as a wildland firefighter—applied for upwards of 15 positions at local and state fire departments in California. Qualified for the work after two years of firefighting, he spent nearly 18 months fielding rejections, not because of his credentials, but because he couldn’t pass a background check. One local department offered him a job, but then rescinded it when they saw he had formerly been incarcerated.
There are thousands of other people like Smith, formerly incarcerated and trained as firefighters, who face a number of hurdles when applying for jobs. To overcome these systemic barriers, Smith and fellow wildland firefighter Royal Ramey founded the Fire and Forestry Recruitment Program, aimed at training and helping formerly incarcerated people find employment as firefighters.
As the state enters the most catastrophic fire season on record, the work of wildland firefighters is more critical than ever, yet the state is facing a shortage of potential workers. For years, the state has lacked a formalized process for incorporating firefighters that have been incarcerated into its ranks. This year that could change.
It all began with the simple act of writing a letter. A group of folks gathered to begin a pen pal program under the leadership of Rev Karen Mooney from the UU Prison Ministry of Illinois UUPMI. Over time, unexpectedly and with some hesitation, real relationships were forged with people incarcerated in the Illinois Correctional Complex. As they learned of the horrors suffered by their friends behind bars, a project was born and UCH took up the cause of reinstating Parole in the state of Illinois.
Writing letters and forging friendships is an ongoing project at UCH. The group meets quarterly to compare their experiences and to support one another in the ongoing process of reaching out and connecting with other folks - folks we might never know in our daily lives. It has been a powerful and transformative ministry in UCH
Ghost by Lonnie Smith
With all these years in prison I believe I've
Come to feel what a ghost must feel, forced to be
Spectators in a world where we've long been forgotten.
Neither here nor there as life goes on around us.
Some have forgotten that they were ever part
of that world, they go around hating the world
and the people in it. Others remember too well,
They long to be part of that world again, to be seen,
To be heard, to be relevant.
Every once in a while, for however
Brief it may be someone sees them, really sees
Them. Not for what they are told to see, a ghost,
But for what lies beneath. For those who haven't
And do not want to forget, who still cherish and hang
on to their humanity, it means the world to them.
So yes, behind these four walls I've most
Definitely come to feel what a ghost must feel,
Your friendly ghost.
interviewing Renaldo Hudson
Why do I Deserve Parole?" excerpts
by Anthony Jones.
You ask me to answer the question: " Why do I deserve parole". Well, I would answer that by saying that if parole could be earned then I have earned it by my consistently sustained lawful behavior and actions. I have been incarcerated for the past 29 years-since I was 20 years old. I've come to understand that my destructive actions and behavior led me here. And by self-reflection, education, maturity and the divine intervention and grace of God, I am no longer the young man that committed this crime.
All throughout my 29 years, I've made a real commitment to positive change through serving others, higher education(earning my GED, Associate Degree, paralegal certification), peer-health educator certification through the IDPH, Clinical Service volunteer, Chaplain Volunteer in Stateville and Pinckneyville and working as a law clerk at Stateville and now here at Dixon.
I've faithfully done all of this without any other incentive other than having a desire to be a better human being and to give back to a world that I foolishly took from.
If I deserve parole-a second chance- it is because I am no longer a threat to anyone. I do not wish to commit any crimes or harm anyone. I only wish to share whatever time that I have left on this planet with my granddaughter, son, family and friends. I want to continue serving my community and offering my life story as a cautionary tale for others.