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 16 UCH pen pals who have established 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, meet regularly for support and reflection. They also have the opportunity to join in a quarterly meeting with pen pals throughout Illinois, hosted by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Chicago.
You can join this ministry at any time. Please contact us.
Prison Ministry Team Leaders
Books to Prisoners Connection
Our Prison Ministry is happy to support the statewide work of the Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners program. This non-profit provides free books to incarcerated people, and books from Books to Prisoners bring not just education and diversion but also the knowledge that someone on the outside cares about them. The program accepts donations of books, but often has requests for titles that are not donated. In connection with the independent bookshop owned by UCH member Debbi Daniel-Wayman, we maintain an online registry of "Often Requested, Seldom Donated Books" from their wishlist that we encourage you to visit at bit.ly/3FgdmUdB2P. All profits from these online sales go to the Books to Prisoners program to help defray mailing costs.
Advocacy: Elder Parole for Illinois
Our pen pal program informs our advocacy work. Our pen pals tell us they want us to work to bring parole back to Illinois. This legislative session, we are again working to pass this legislation. There is an Illinois House Bill 3613, currently stuck in committee, that we hope will be considered and voted on. HB3613 provides an opportunity for a parole hearing for people who are 55 years and older and have been incarcerated 25 years or more.
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 always use your help.... turning in a witness slip electronically to the committees, or by contacting 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:
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.
Stateville Correctional Center
Inside Pen Pal
interviewing Renaldo Hudson
Why do I Deserve Parole?" excerpts
by Anthony Jones. (We are happy to report since this writing, Mr. Jones is a returning citizen through the clemency process.)
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.