Illinois Man Shares Experience to Highlight Possibilities of Reform


There can be life after prison, although the road to get there is usually difficult and badly needs reform.

Consider the case of an Illinois man, now heading to Stanford University after having served 15 years of a 30-year prison sentence for marijuana trafficking.  Jason Spyres, now 36, was caught with 38 pounds of marijuana in Macon County in 2001.  He was given a Class X felony sentence, fined over $200,000, and told that he was un-rehabilitatable. Class X is considered more serious than a second-degree murder conviction, where the sentence may be probation.

Now that he has left prison, Spyres is on a mission to show others they can get past a criminal conviction. While not every ex-prisoner can do what Spyres did and score a scholarship to Stanford University, he believes there would be more roads available to them to get jobs, open up businesses, and be good parents to their children, if more reforms were made to the criminal justice system. Spyres stresses that actions such as expanding jobs skills programs at the Department of Corrections and addressing excessive fines would help ex-prisoners move forward and put their past behind them.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Illinois, you are faced with a criminal record and discrimination that will negatively impact you for the rest of your life.  Due to the seriousness and complexity of Illinois criminal law, it is essential to get top-notch legal assistance.

The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and requirements, and we will work with you to mount the most effective defense possible.  We offer a free consultation, so contact us online or call our office for help today if you have been accused of any criminal charges.

The Need for Criminal Justice Reform

The United States imprisons more people than any other country, and as many as one in three American adults have some type of criminal record.  Long after their prison sentence has ended, the formerly incarcerated suffer consequences that include poverty, obstacles to employment, housing, education, training, and public assistance, the loss of chances for a good family life and financial empowerment; and, in some states, they lose the right to vote.

Statistics show that when former offenders are able to find work to support themselves and their families, they are less likely to return to crime; and when an ex-offender gets a job, the likelihood of recidivism can drop to as low as 16 percent. Unfortunately, under the present criminal justice system, almost half of ex-offenders in Illinois end up back in prison within three years of release, according to a study by the Safer Foundation. As a result, reformers like Spyres are calling for smarter investments in prevention of crimes, and in treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners.

What Illinois is Doing

While there is still a long way to go, Illinois has started making some progress in changing the system to make it easier for ex-offenders to leave their pasts behind, successfully re-enter their communities and provide for themselves and their families. Laws that have recently passed include:

  • Expanded record-sealing eligibility. Ex-offenders with felony convictions can petition to have their criminal records sealed from view by the general public, including most private employers.
  • Expungement for juvenile offenders. There will be automatic expungement (wiping out the record) of juvenile arrest records that do not result in delinquency. Expungement of records of juveniles with delinquency but no other criminal cases pending will be made after two years. Juvenile records not expunged are sealed from view by the general public.
  • Fairer treatment of property owners. Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial practice wherein police can seize property suspected of having been connected to a crime without obtaining a criminal conviction against the owner. The new law reforms this practice by transferring the burden of proof to the government to show it is entitled to take the property.
  • Criminal procedure reform. This creates a formal process to handle the custody of defendants found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.
  • Visitation reform. Inmates are allowed to receive visitors in person or via video teleconference, with some exceptions for behavior.
  • Content-controlled tablets. Inmates get temporary access to controlled tablets for educational and visitation opportunities as a reward for good behavior.
  • Sentencing guidelines. This creates tougher sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders while working to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison.
  • Bail reform act. Provides new rights for bail defendants and encourages risk assessment for defendants to determine whether they are a danger to the community.
  • The Criminal Justice Best Practices Act. The act introduces practices to facilitate re-entry for ex-prisoners and reduce recidivism, improves supports available for children and youth affected by crime and violence, and expands eligibility for rehabilitative programming in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The bill also:
  1. requires the IDOC to use evidence-based practices to supervise individuals on parole, focusing supervision on high risk individuals.
  2. expands access to the Victim Compensation Fund to expand cooperation with law enforcement to increase services for young people who have suffered emotional or psychological injury due to a crime of violence.
  3. requires the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to submit a 4-year strategic plan for violence prevention and victim and trauma recovery services.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find.  The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. will examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available in every situation.  We work with our clients to come up with an effective defense strategy and determine whether to take a case to trial. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, rights, and your ability to find employment.

We are aggressive litigators and will answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

We offer a free consultation, so contact us online or call our offices today.