Illinois is poised to become a national exemplar in the field of higher education in prison (HEP).
The Illinois Higher Education in Prison Task Force met for the last time on July 28, 2022 to adopt 31 recommendations. They include steps toward implementing a legislative action plan to expand and support high-quality HEP opportunities throughout the state.
In particular, the task force’s recommendations include:
- Creating a commission to continue the work of the task force
- Requiring entities to collect and report HEP data regularly
- Increasing access to technology in Illinois prisons
- Leveraging state and federal dollars to support HEP funding
- Building a rich ecology of HEP programming in Illinois
The task force was created by the Illinois General Assembly in October 2021, made possible by legislation co-sponsored by Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons and Illinois State Senator Kimberly Lightford and supported by multiple organizations, educators, and incarcerated individuals. The task force had five months to assess and report on HEP in Illinois and identify ways to improve access, quality, and support of prison higher education. This analysis informed task force members’ understanding of HEP and helped shape their proposed recommendations.
Rep. Ammons demonstrated an unwavering commitment to HEP in Illinois by helping to create the task force and serving as a member. Her leadership, passion, and dedication to HEP are why this task force will be able to lead to sustainable and effective change. The task force is an important milestone and we at EJP look forward to supporting Rep. Ammons in her efforts to advocate for the task force’s recommendations in future legislative sessions.
EJP and the Freedom to Learn Campaign (FTL) played many critical roles on the task force. Rebecca Ginsburg, EJP director and co-founder of FTL, served as a member. Ashton Hoselton, EJP policy and research director and FTL member, twice presented before the task force. Additional insight and research was provided by FTL members through public comment and helped to further the task force’s understanding of the barriers and opportunities for HEP in Illinois. For additional information on FTL’s involvement, please read their recent statement on the task force.
At EJP, we are both celebrating the work of the task force and looking forward to our next steps. While the task force identified key objectives and began important discussions, the time frame did not allow for a full investigation into best practices.
First and foremost, EJP is excited to support the creation of a new commission that will continue the work of the task force and push for implementation of its recommendations. The commission would have two years to determine a more permanent structure for supporting HEP, among other objectives.
To get the new commission and the task force’s other recommendations into legislation, task force members, HEP advocates, and supportive legislators will need to work together to draft legislation, garner support for related legislation, and build a base of community members committed to pushing this work forward.
Looking for ways to support these efforts?
- EJP welcomes you to join its policy team! Please contact Ashton Hoselton (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in learning more about how you can support its work.
- FTL is searching for individuals to join their research, legislative, and communications subcommittees and steering committee. If you’re interested, you’re invited to attend the next FTL Steering Committee meeting, Tuesday, August 30 from 2:30- 2:30pm CT to learn more. Please email Nancy Negrete at email@example.com to request additional meeting information.
- Sign up for FTL mailing list to receive regular FTL updates and a notification when the task force’s final report becomes available.