The 4th anniversary of the Illinois moratorium on executions

By: Tanya Trowell

On January 31, the Chicago-Hyde Park chapter of the CEDP celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Illinois moratorium on executions. About 100 people attended this historic event, including many family members of prisoners, community leaders and other activists. The panel featured freed death row prisoner Madison Hobley and his wife Kim Hobley, Chick Hoffman of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, and Alice Kim of the Campaign.

The highlight of the evening was a call-in from Renaldo Hudson, a former death row prisoner now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at Stateville Correctional Facility. Renaldo organizes other prisoners on the inside and their family members to get involved. The conversation he had with Madison Hobley over the loudspeaker had the audience in tears as they reminisced the past and talked about the present.

"The system tries to keep us down," said Renaldo. "We need to turn our cells into war rooms to get the message out that there is hope. We’re still struggling in here doing life without the possibility of parole. We’re treated like animals daily...Even though they have their boots on our necks, we can still breathe, and if we can breathe then we can get the word out that justice and mercy go together. It takes every fiber of my being not to go to bed crying and wake up crying. In March, I will be here 21 years, but I thank God that I still have my mind to keep fighting."

The room was filled with 32 red helium balloons to represent the 32 men who were named in Lisa Madigan’s lawsuit that attempted to reverse their commuted death sentences. A card was attached to each balloon with the name and address of one of these prisoners for audience members to take home and write to.

At this event, we also brought attention to the case of Kevin Cooper in California and urged the audience to call, e-mail and fax Gov. Schwarzenegger to stop Kevin’s execution.

Overall, people left more committed to abolishing the death penalty.