Our Purpose: To Serve as a Digital Resource Center


The United States has far more people in prison and in jail than public safety requires. This damages the lives of those who are incarcerated, their families, and their communities, disproportionately the lives and families and communities of people of color. It also contributes to a cycle of crime and punishment and diverts resources from more constructive uses.

This purpose of this website is to provide information that individuals and organizations need in order to get involved in confronting the moral crisis of mass incarceration in Illinois and elsewhere, by accumulating and organizing the growing body of information about the full range of complex issues that we need to address in order to rethink and change the laws and practices that have resulted in too many men and women—most of them people of color—being imprisoned, and about the many ongoing efforts that one can support for making our response to criminal behavior both fairer and more  effective.

That growing body of information is accessible through the links accumulated both in the summary document on opportunities and resources, which you will find under in the section entitled “Getting Involved” and in the documents that break down that same information by subject matter in the other sections of the website listed above.

Those resources also include video recordings available on this homepage of programs featuring leading experts that were hosted by St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Chicago in 2018 to promote greater understanding of the criminal legal system and to begin to provide tools for individuals and organizations to get involved in promoting radical change.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the CDLU. 

Events for the Fall and Reports from the Summer on Justice Reform

Reports on the state of our criminal legal system, and on initiatives to improve it, continued to proliferate while we were enjoying the summer.  

The revised documents that you will find at the tabs Getting Involved, and Books, Reports and Articles, provide fresh data about how system operates and thoughtful commentary on topics such as diversion from incarceration, repurposing of prisons and recognizing the humanity of those who have been incarcerated.

The revised documents that you will find at  Getting Involved, and Upcoming Events contain links to information about some of the opportunities that we have this fall to celebrate with those whose efforts are transforming the conversation about justice reform in Illinois and who are serving the needs of those who are impacted by the system.:

As always, the revised documents in these and other sections of the website continue to contain links to the wealth of resources that have been accumulating over the past months and years, to provide the basis for each of us to define and pursue our roles in the efforts to reform the criminal legal system.

Please feel free to let others who may be interested know of these resources.

Thank you for all that you do.

New Online Resources and Reports and Upcoming Online Events

The spring session of the Illinois General Assembly created a busy time for citizens and advocates in defending last year’s justice reforms, including the Pretrial Justice Act, and opposing additional ineffective punitive measures for those accused of a crime and those who have served their time.  There is a summary of the results of those efforts on this website under the subheading Advocacy In Illinois and at the tab Getting Involved.  

The revised documents that you will find at the tabs Upcoming Online EventsBooks, Reports and Articles and Getting Involved also highlight new online resources and reports:

  • discussing the disfunction and injustice in Illinois prisons and what is needed to reform them,
  • providing digital exhibitions and an activation kit for Envisioning Justice,
  • focusing on the scope of juvenile incarceration and the impact of our increasing incarceration of women who are mothers, and
  • highlighting the development of advocacy and resources to improve the lives of those who have served their time.

Upcoming Online Events

The purpose of this post is to highlight links to a number of upcoming online programs in which we can participate as we gear up to tackle Justice Reform in 2022, which appear in the revised documents at the tab Upcoming Online Events and at the tab Getting Involved.  The revised documents at the tab Books, Reports and Articles and at the tab Sources of Support for Returning Citizens contain links to new reports related to promoting just outcomes for young offenders and to information about additional organizations devoted to improving the lives of those who have been released from prison.

Tackling Justice Reform in 2022

The new year brings important new initiatives in

  • reducing the barriers and increasing the support for people returning from prison,
  • supporting the full implementation of last year’s landmark justice reform legislation in Illinois, including the Pretrial Fairness Act,
  • continuing to transform our system of juvenile justice,
  • expanding the use of restorative justice practices, and
  • and challenging racial disparities at every level of our criminal legal system.

Please link to information about some of them in the revised documents that you will find in the sections of the website on Getting Involved, Sources of Information, Volunteer opportunities and Upcoming Online Events

Supporting Organizations That Are Making a Difference and Continuing to Focus on Addressing the Racial Disparities in Our Criminal Legal System

Once again we approach the end of the year with many reasons to appreciate the dedication of individuals and organizations whose efforts continue to shine a light on the failures of our criminal legal system, to develop and implement changes that will bring justice and overcome racial bias, and to serve those harmed by the cycle of trauma and violence caused by the punitive approach that we take to criminal justice.

Here is a list of organizations that are making important contributions to those efforts and that are worthy of our year-end financial support, including links that you can use to learn more about their work and to make a donation.

[And by clicking here you can make a tax deductible contribution to CDLU.org – www.cdlu.org, the nonprofit organization that created this website.]

We are also called to take some time over the holidays to continue to consider how we can address the racial disparities in our criminal legal system.  We can get some help in maintaining that focus:

Please also use the links in the revised document under the tab Getting Involved, and in the revised documents listing reports and online resources under the tab Sources of Information and Ideas:

  • to participate in some of the online events being presented between now and December 7,
  • to join the new Illinois Alliance for Reentry and Justice,
  • to watch some of the programs mentioned there that are now available online, and
  • to consult some of the important new reports on conditions in our prisons, on reforming the reentry experience, on the status of justice reform in Illinois, and on addressing mass incarceration through social investments.

I hope that you and your families will also find time to enjoy the holidays and that you will find new sources of inspiration and energy as we emerge from some of the limitations and distractions of the past two years.

Fall Programs and New Reports – Opportunities to Learn About and Support Justice Reform Efforts

From the Desk of John McLees…

The documents you can access in the sections of the website titled Getting Involved, Upcoming Online Events, and Other Sources and Ideas highlight links to several opportunities in September and October to participate in programs presented by organizations that are leading justice reform efforts in Illinois, and new reports addressing some of the many sources of injustice in our systems of prosecution, incarceration, and ongoing punishment of those who have been released from prison and from jail.

We hope that you will consider participating in some of those programs and that you will use them and the many links to other books, reports and online resources as the basis for getting involved in reforming our criminal legal system.

The Annual Injustice for All Film Festival Online, and Other New Resources

The annual Injustice For All Film Festival took place online from August 12 through 21.  You can find details about the films being shown and about how to register to view them WITHOUT CHARGE at: https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff

You can watch the Opening Night of the festival, featuring Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries and the film Trapped – Cash Bail in America, at: Https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff/play/60f058413e3cb8005953e677

The festival features films on Mass Incarceration, Racism, Police Accountability, People Power, Restoration and Recovery, Domestic Violence, Immigration, Bail Reform, and Racial Discrimination in Housing.  

The revised documents at the heading “Getting Involved” and the other headings in this website contains links to other new resources, in addition to those highlighted in earlier blog posts below.

Addressing Life After Prison through the Inside Out Network and Fully Free Campaign; Digging Deeper into the Criminal Legal System and Permanent Punishment

From the Desk of John McLees…

Work continues on all fronts in the fight for justice in the criminal legal system and in the mechanisms by which we impose permanent punishment on those who have been incarcerated.

The revised document at the heading “Getting Involved” also highlights the launch by the Heartland Alliance and others in Illinois of the Fully Free Campaign: https://fullyfree.org/ to end our system of permanent punishment of those who have been incarcerated.

Both that document and the document attached under the heading “Other Sources of Information and Ideas” also contain links to many reports that deserve our attention, including new reports on:

  • the reform agendas of Sharone Mitchell, the new Cook County Public Defender, and Kim Foxx, the Cook County State’s Attorney,
  • the financial exploitation of inmates and their families by the Illinois Department of Corrections,
  • the reality of parole in America as an endless trap and engine for reincarceration,
  • the increasing impact of life imprisonment in the United States, even for relatively minor offenses,
  • the pitfalls facing counties from well-funded campaigns to build big new costly jails,
  • the exploitation and harsh treatment of inmates with disabilities in U.S. prisons, and
  • the alarming rise in deaths of inmates in U.S. prisons and jails. xx

There are also links in the document under the heading Advocacy in Illinois to enable you to communicate efficiently with your Illinois legislators on:

  • the importance of rejecting any proposals to repeal or modify the Illinois Pretrial Justice Act that was enacted in January, and
  • the need for the state senate in Illinois to approve HB 1064 to eliminate life without parole sentences for most people 20 and younger.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the CDLU. 

More Online Programs, New Reports and Proposed Legislation in Illinois

From the Desk of John McLees…

Please consider participating in some of the many useful programs that are available to you online in the coming week and later in April, for which you will find links in the attached summary of resources for supporting justice reform.

Please also contact your legislators to support some of the many important bills now under consideration in the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, many of which listed and discussed on pages 3 and 4 of the attachment.

There are also new links to some of the ongoing stream of reports on important issues of justice reform that are worth our attention.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the CDLU. As a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization, the CDLU does not support or oppose any form of legislation, nor do we advocate on behalf of or against any candidates.