The answer is yes. Given the right circumstances, you can petition the governor to reduce a life sentence, and such petitions have been granted.

The governor of Illinois has full power to commute any sentence or issue a pardon for any petitioner he or she deems is worthy. Current governor J.B. Pritzker has already commuted sentences of convicted felons in a number of cases, including some that were very serious. During the COVID-19 crisis, some requests have even been expedited.

After filing a petition with the Prisoner Review Board, you will have an opportunity to present witnesses at a hearing, although prisoners are not be permitted to appear. These hearings are held both in Chicago and in Springfield. The Prisoner Review Board then makes a recommendation to the governor.

The real question is: Can you make a strong case? What was the nature of your involvement in the offense? Were you in a barroom fight or did you take several weeks to plan the perfect crime? How many years have you served on your sentence? What is your prison record like? Have you shown genuine remorse and have you genuinely reformed? Do you have credible character references? Are there special circumstances? During the Covid-19 outbreak, some convicted felons are being released if they can demonstrate a history of significant health issues, such as serious heart trouble or emphysema

Realistically, a serial killer or the perpetrator of a particularly vicious act is not going to be considered for release. Short of that, an experienced attorney can assist in evaluating whether there are compelling reasons to proceed with a petition.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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