Maya Szilak and Gwyn Troyer – Session I

Role of independent oversight

Maya Szilak and Gwyn Troyer, John Howard Association of Illinois

The John Howard Association (JHA) serves as a leading independent voice in Illinois criminal justice reform. JHA is the only group whose work is firmly grounded in routine citizen monitoring of correctional facilities, policies, and practices, with the goal of advancing reforms to achieve a fair, humane, and effective criminal justice system. We regularly visit Illinois’ juvenile and adult facilities, observe conditions and programs, listen to incarcerated individuals, their loved ones, and staff, and collect data. Our work provides communities with needed transparency that would not otherwise exist and focuses awareness on missed opportunities for more positive, less costly interventions, as well as the harms resulting from system involvement that may translate into further harms to communities. By continually, objectively examining and reporting on what actually is, or could be, accomplished through use of incarceration and custodial programming, we advocate for greater scrutiny of our responses to crime and violence.