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New bill could allow parole for people under 21 sentenced to life in prison | Main stories


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — In Jan. new law made it possible for people convicted at the age of 20 and younger to be eligible for parole consideration. While this law helps people convicted in 2023 or later, it does not provide parole for those convicted before 2019.

Restore Justice Illinois helped push HB1064, now Public Act 102-1128, through the house. They are now championing Senate Bill 2073 in the state legislature.

“There is a generation of people who have had very limited options for release other than a pardon from the governor,” said Lindsey Hammond, director of policy for Restoring Justice. “Many of these people have no other hope or opportunity to return home.”

Restore Justice has several staff members who are formerly incarcerated. One of them is Nelson Morris, who served 29 years in prison and was released in August 2020.

He was convicted when he was just 17 and says others his age should not be in prison without a second chance.

“We will not allow a child to buy a car until the age of 18, we will not allow children to go out after curfew, join the army, get an apartment and so on, because they are not mentally and responsible enough to make such decisions. ” Morris said.

Morris said he didn’t even know how to read when he went to prison. The men he spent time with in prison taught him how to shave and developed his moral compass.

“It’s helped me become who I am, and that’s one of the reasons I try to give back and help the guys, because I know everybody’s not a monster,” Morris said. “I know the boys made the wrong choice.”

In her work at Restore Justice, Morris speaks to legislators to lobby for parole bills. Having a real person you know tell you their story takes the impact of these offers to another level, he says.

“If a child is 15, 16, 17 or 18 years old and they commit a heinous act, we don’t take them away,” Morris said. “Yes, it is disgusting. But what about that child in 20 years? Will he still be that person? This kid didn’t even have a chance to develop and become who he is.”

Senate Bill 2073 was introduced on February 9, 2023 and is scheduled for second reading on March 21, 2023. If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2024.

To read the bill in its entirety, click here.

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