Photo by Karl Clifton-Soderstrom, from North Park University’s program

IL-CHEP is a coalition of programs and educators dedicated to providing quality higher education opportunities for people who are incarcerated in Illinois. We strive to support our students as they build meaningful lives and prepare for a successful future in civic life.

Equally important, we encourage public dialogue and action to reduce our state’s and country’s reliance on incarceration.

COVID19 and Higher Education in Illinois Prisons

As of March 2020, all prison higher education programs in the state have suspended programming in response to the CoronaVirus. We are uncertain when programs will resume. We will post updates on this website.

What can you do to support incarcerated students, prison education programs, and all who work and live in prisons at this time?

  • Support IL-CHEP’s effort to get sanitizer and soap into IL prisons. We were asked by the Illinois Department of Corrections whether we could supply this and we are doing our best, working with several Illinois distilleries that have turned operations over to sanitizer production. Learn more and contribute here.
  • Sign onto our letter asking IL Governor J.P. Pritzker to undertake a review of our elderly and infirm jail and prison populations with an eye to immediate compassionate releases or medical furloughs for these individuals. Access the letter here. Follow the ongoing activities of organizations fighting for releases on the “Week of Action” Facebook page.

**Keep up with our response to the threat that COVID19 poses to individuals in prisons and jails through the Freedom to Learn IL blog.

IL-CHEP Statement on State-Sanctioned Violence and White Supremacy

June 11, 2020

IL-CHEP and its members are outraged by  ceaseless state-sanctioned violence. We are grieving over the senseless, unjustified abuse suffered by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and by incarcerated people daily. Through this grief, we find ourselves focused on the work that needs to be done. 

The murder of George Floyd and ongoing violence by law enforcement in the public and behind bars  is the result of an inhumane criminal legal system perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. The disproportionate caging of Black and Brown people is the result of a racist society; its pervasive and destructive nature infiltrates every facet of our daily lives and will continue to do so until we take a stand. 

IL-CHEP joins others taking that stand. We refuse to stand by idly while state-sanctioned violence against people of color is endemic in our streets and inside our detention facilities. We will not remain silent and complicit, but instead use our voice and platform to take a stand for justice, to stand in solidarity with movements for Black lives and all victims of racist police violence.

Together, we must act urgently to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms. We must illuminate the state-sanctioned violence that happens both openly and outside of the public eye, that cannot be caught on camera by a bystander. Mass incarceration, systematic violence, and disinvestment in Black communities since the founding of this country have brought us to where we are today. We must collectively acknowledge the past, the impact it has on the present, and commit to calling out, denouncing, and fighting systemic racism while making equity and liberation our guiding lights. 

Protestors are now marching across the country to affirm the humanity of Black people and expose the hatred embedded in a system that relies on the falsehood of Black inferiority while incarcerated leaders are on the front lines of the same struggle behind bars. White supremacy and state-sanctioned violence are the common threads/structural forces that are manifested by disgraceful conditions and treatment in Illinois’ prisons, such as  the lack of power at Vienna Correctional Center, the reopening of the uninhabitable F-House at Stateville Correctional Center, the mass strip searches of women previously housed at Lincoln Correctional Center, the separation of families, lack of access to quality education and health care and the unending loss of Black lives at the hands of police who murder with impunity. 

We denounce these injustices. We denounce the officers that murdered George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo, Rekia Boyd, Ronald “Ronnie Man” Johnson, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier, Frankie Ann Perkins, LaTanya Haggerty, Sandra Bland, DeCynthia Clements, Chequita Adams, and the countless others, some of  whose names we do not know. We denounce the guards that abused Abner Louima, Kalief Browder, and the numerous victims of sexual assault that go unidentified. We denounce the existing system and the false notion that it is broken. 

These are the predictable consequences of a racist and prejudiced culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning. As educators, we remain motivated to dismantle what exists and reconstruct a society that invests in the lives and education of Black people everywhere. Together we will create positive and permanent transformation.