One of the most basic of victims rights is the right to be notified of, and heard in all matters pertaining to their legal cases against the offender. Victims of violent crime in Illinois that have an offender that has been apprehended have the right to know about, and to have their say in, what happens to the offender. Victims do NOT get to determine the offender’s fate. But they do get to be heard.
Often victims have vital information about the crime and offender that will help the criminal justice system to work better. Criminal Justice is a very complicated, difficult, and incredibly complex human system. It requires the very best from each stakeholder. It is a delicate balancing act and the more information that courts and prisoner review boards have, the better.
Also, victims are sometimes in on-going danger from the offender. They need to know what is happening.
Most Criminals Are Never Apprehended or Brought To Trial
Crime Victims United of Illinois embraces also our fellow crime victims that have not yet had the offender apprehended in their cases. We know that agony that you experience and stand in support of you. We hear anecdotally that most crimes are either not reported or never have an offender apprehended. You are NO less a victim in these cases. You still have rights. And you still have support and resources. Your story still matters a great deal.
Please post your story at our Cold Case page to help bring attention to your case.
Victim Notification of Offender Status
In the early stages of the case through the trial, victims should be talking regularly to the States Attorney of the county they live in. Many Illinois counties have a victim advocate working for the prosecutor. After the offender is incarcerated, victims can register for Victim Notification through the VINE system to stay current on the offender’s status.
Victims are welcome to post at this website about offenders, but because of our Constitutional values of “innocent until proven guilty” we will only publish names of specific offenders who have been CONVICTED and found guilty of their crime.
Most Offenders are Non-Violent
We at Crime Victims United of Illinois stand in recognition of the fact that most “criminals” commit small, petty, and mostly non-violent crimes. We believe therefore that most offenders should get an opportunity to make restitution, perhaps participate in a diversionary or community service program, get drug treatment if that is called for, and be given support to turn their lives around. We do not believe these kinds of offenders should be incarcerated for very long periods of time. Many never need any kind of incarceration.
Some Offenders Feel Nothing for their VictimsWhile humor is not appropriate given the seriousness of violent crime and its victims, sometimes even the Comics convey great truths about what the problems are with crime, offenders, and their victims. The above statements about most offenders being non-violent not withstanding, many offenders are genuine sociopaths. They need to be separated from society. Victims continue to need advocacy and protection much more than offenders do. We struggle mightily with the significant resources society expends on offenders, while so little is available for their victims.
We do not support convictions of innocent people, which does sometimes happen in our flawed human systems. Illinois has had more than a few high profile cases of innocent people being convicted, and even serving decades in prison. We support the creation of an Innocence Commission in Illinois to prevent this wherever possible. Innocent people convicted of crimes they did not commit are victims too. One of Illinois’ most prestigious institutions is the Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Offender-Related News Stories
Victims need more information about the tools that are used to determine offender readiness for release. The Pew Forum offers: “Using Offender Risk and Need Assessment at Sentencing” – Published by the National Center for State Courts, it includes information about assessment instruments and how they are used; effective conditions of probation and responses to violations; monitoring and evaluation; and much more….you can download this very informative Guide at http://www.ncsconline.org/D_Research/CSI/analysis.html.
Unable to get jobs, freed inmates return to jail. Several states are pushing inmates out of prison in early release programs to save money. But inmates face a tough job market, increasing the likelihood of recidivism.
The Illinois Prisoner Review Board
The PRB monitors all prisoners, calculates and evaluates good time credits, release conditions, parole for C Number prisoners (pre-1978 cases), and other prisoner matters including probation violations. To write to the PRB:
Illinois Prisoner Review Board
319 East Madison Street, Suite A
Springfield, IL 62701
Victims interested in finding out more about the PRB should contact Illinois Prisoner Review Board Victims Services at 800-801-9110
C Number Prisoners
In 1978 Illinois moved to DETERMINATE sentencing where offenders would serve predictable and reliable terms of days, months and years, based only on their crime and their own behavior in prison, eliminating the very random and wildly discriminatory practice of parole.
But offenders sentenced prior to Feb. 1978 are still under INDETERMINATE sentence and still come up for annual or tri-annual parole reviews by the PRB. Those offenders are called “C Number” prisoners, and there are only about 250 of them left from the many thousands there over the last several decades. Those 250 cases have failed to qualify for release for over 30 straight years, and many believe that this means these offenders should never and will never be released. Most were sentenced to hundreds, even over a thousand years in prison. There were no life sentences available in Illinois at that time and so courts gave these lengthy terms as they could. In the present day, many believe that these remaining offenders should simply serve a life sentence so that the victims families no longer have to go through the agony of the annual parole fight.
Some of these victims families are into the second and third generation of family members who have to travel, take off work, re-open wounds, expend money, and organize a campaign each year to fight these releases. Crime Victims United of Illinois joins the call for reforms to protect the victims familes of C number prisoners from further agony, and to give them whatever legal finality in these cases that is possible.
The public may make their opinions known to the PRB about pending release proposals for these inmates by writing the PRB at the address above. Also, public hearings are held, and victims may participate in person or via remote video link.