Category Archives: incarceration

Community Wins Free Phone Calls at the Champaign County Jail

This article originally appeared at Smile Politely on December 5, 2023; reprinted with permission. It has been lightly edited for style. “He calls first thing in the morning just to say good morning,” said Blaine Sherase Lee, whose son was … Continue reading

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The $1,686,170 Slap: The Shamar Betts Case Continues

It is hard to understand the magnitude of the restitution fine imposed on Urbana resident Shamar Betts as anything other than the persecution of one young black man. Despite a recent stay on collection of the debt pending a response … Continue reading

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Securus is Charging Families Six Dollars for Phone Calls from Jail

This article originally appeared at Smile Politely on September 28, 2023; reprinted with permission. It has been lightly edited for style. Phone calls are a lifeline for those incarcerated to stay in touch with their families and loved ones. The … Continue reading

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At the Feds

Shamar Betts had no previous criminal record but was sentenced to three years in federal prison for “inciting a riot” through a Facebook post he wrote after witnessing the video of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. He was also made … Continue reading

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FirstFollowers: Using Participatory Action Research to Make Change in Our Community

FirstFollowers has a tradition of doing participatory action research at Champaign-Urbana Days, the premier outdoor summer event aimed primarily at the Black community. Participatory Action Research (often called PAR) aims to gather data and information, not just for publication but … Continue reading

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Diesel Therapy

The odyssey of Urbana resident Shamar Betts continues. Betts was arrested for authoring a Facebook post at age 19 in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison and charged … Continue reading

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Illinois Correctional System: What Is It Really?

The Public i is partnering with the Education Justice Project (EJP) to share writing completed by incarcerated students at the Danville Correctional Center. The EJP is a comprehensive college-in-prison program based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Through its educational … Continue reading

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Frustrations of Peer-to-Peer Education in Prisons

The Public i is partnering with the Education Justice Project (EJP) to share writing by incarcerated students at the Danville Correctional Center. The EJP is a comprehensive college-in-prison program based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Through its educational programming … Continue reading

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No Such Thing As a “Safe” Jail: 31-Year-Old Woman Dies at Champaign County Jail

On October 13, 2022, Tillie Deitz, a mother of three young children, died in the Champaign County jail. As I found in my own review of publicly available documents, Deitz admitted to being a drug user upon entering the jail … Continue reading

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The Assault on the Pretrial Fairness Act

Last month, News-Gazette columnist Jim Dey headlined “hysteria” over the provisions of the 2021 Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), which will go into effect in January, including the end to cash bail. Predictably, but illogically, Dey located the hysteria on the side … Continue reading

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Links

The Public i is partnering with the Education Justice Project (EJP) to share writing completed by incarcerated students at the Danville Correctional Center. The EJP is a comprehensive college-in-prison program based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Through its educational … Continue reading

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Donald Trump v. Shamar Betts

I, Shamar Betts, incited a riot through a Facebook post encouraging my people to join alongside the rest of the world in an attempt to express our feelings on the tragic death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Although … Continue reading

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Reckless Law, Shameless Order: Behind the Scenes

  One afternoon in April of 2021 Faranak Miraftab called me to ask if I was interested in holding an art workshop with formerly incarcerated artists in continuation of the “IDENSCITY,” a conceptual art space that I had been developing … Continue reading

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Two Stories from Statesville Prison

Saving Your Mind: Mental Health in the Age of Corona “This is some next-level shit. I thought I’d seen it all in my 20 years in prison,” said Murder (no real names used), my Quarantine Sanitation Specialist co-worker, as we … Continue reading

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Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners’ Mission to Bring Books (and Bibliophilia) Behind Bars

When it comes to helping people make a fresh start after incarceration and avoid returning to prison, few approaches are as effective and vital as education. Many people who wind up in the prison system do not have enough literacy … Continue reading

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Shamar Betts Case Moves to Federal Appeals Court

On April 8, the case of Urbana resident Shamar Betts moved to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Betts was arrested in June, 2020 in the midst of a national crackdown on protests against the murder … Continue reading

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“It’s a Money Grab”: Billions in COVID Relief Going to Fund Police and Prisons

If you’re from inner-city Birmingham, Alabama, there’s a “99-percent chance” you have a family member or friend who has been incarcerated, according to Veronica Johnson, deputy director for the Alabama Justice Initiative, which has been fighting against a proposal to … Continue reading

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Fines, Fees, and Escalating Bail Bonds: Champaign County Urgently Needs to Implement the Pretrial Fairness Act

The Champaign County Bailout Coalition (CCBC) is a grassroots organization that uses community donations to pay low bail amounts for incarcerated individuals who don’t have access to financial resources in their moment of crisis. Founded in 2018, CCBC now pays … Continue reading

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Taking the Band-Aid Off of Mass Incarceration

On a bad day, those of us seeking justice can find little to be hopeful about. The recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse again reminds us that the law is designed to protect white lives. Even after widespread protests and demonstrations … Continue reading

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Hunger Strike, Ceiling Collapse, Lawsuit Spotlight Deteriorating Conditions at Logan Women’s Prison in Illinois

“I’ve been incarcerated since the age of 18, I grew up in the penal system,” shares Mishunda Davis. “I went from the Cook County jail to Dwight prison, to Lincoln, and I have never seen as many condemned buildings as … Continue reading

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