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Illinois Prisoner Review Board: Political proxy fight?

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


With only six of its 15 seats filled, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board’s ability to function is being questioned. In the last couple weeks, the Democratically controlled state Senate rejected two of Gov. JB Pritzker’s nominees to the independent state agency and a third resigned. 

All the sparring between Republicans and Pritzker has made it clear that the board has become a proxy for one of this election’s top issues: crime.

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board was established in 1978, and mostly replaced parole in the state, NPR Illinois reported. Appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, the group considers the early releases of incarcerated people

Appointees are automatically confirmed if the Senate doesn’t vote on them within 60 session days, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. But Republicans decided to revisit that process and take a closer look at the decisions of recent appointees and their votes to release a few high-profile offenders convicted of killings. 

The process and its outcomes have become political — on all sides. 

  • Conservative lawmakers are trying to establish ahead of this year’s election that Gov. JB Pritzker is weak on crime.
  • Pritzker has fired back, calling Republican lawmakers members of the “GQP,” aka politicians who support QAnon conspiracy theories.
  • On the left, some Democrats voted against the confirmation of appointees or didn’t vote at all, revealing divisions between progressives and moderates

Politics aside, advocates are concerned about the board’s ability to operate. Nine members are required at hearings for people who’ve violated the terms of their release, the Pritzker administration has said, the Chicago Tribune reported. Next week’s clemency hearings have already been postponed. 

🎧 More on Illinois prisons: Western Illinois Correctional Center guards are on trial this week for the 2018 beating of Larry Earvin, who died weeks later. WBEZ’s Shannon Heffernan tells us about the incident and its aftermath, and what she hopes listeners will take away about incarceration and punishment in the new season of the podcast “Motive.”

A multi-colored banner reading, "The future is a community project: How do you envision justice?" with the url to the Illinois Humanities' new virtual exhibit.

Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION, a virtual Illinois Humanities exhibit and activation kit that uses the arts and humanities to imagine a future without mass incarceration, is now open. The virtual exhibit features work by artists, humanists, journalists, filmmakers, poets, musicians, educators, and activists — many of whom are formerly or currently incarcerated.

The free opening reception is April 6.


▪️ Compared to this time last year, shootings are down 13% and homicides are down 7%. But that’s still higher than 2019 and 2020. [WTTW]

▪️ City officials announced that they will be giving away 5,000 bikes, helmets, and bike locks next year, and that they’re working on 48 miles of new bike trails. [The Daily Line]

▪️ Town halls about the remaining casino bids start this week.

▪️ According to our bracket, Riot Fest is the Summertime Chi Music Fest readers are most excited about! Have fun seeing My Chemical Romance and the Misfits at Douglas Park this summer 🤪

▪️ Want to wine, dine, AND read? Check out these bookstore wine bars! [Eater Chicago]

▪️ City Cast’s Jacoby Cochran was back on Outside the Loop’s podcast summit with podcasters Album ReBrews and Vanished Chicagoland.


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Is it just me, or are we being spoiled lately with opportunities to see the famous artist’s work all over Chicago? 

Black-and-white photo of a woman staring into the distance. Her chin rests in her hand, and her hair is braided and put up.
Portrait of Frida Kahlo in 1944. (Bettmann / Getty)

📸 Kahlo’s personal photography collection opened at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen over the weekend. It runs through the summer.

🌺 The Frida Kahlo immersive exhibit is on display at Germania Place in Old Town this spring. 

💀 Did you miss Kahlo’s “Timeless” collection at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn last year? City Cast’s Carrie Shepherd didn’t! Listen to our conversation with the museum curators.

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