It’s been many years since your loved one was sent to prison. You believe that he or she has more than paid any debt to society. Is there anything you can do to help your loved get out early?

The answer is yes, depending on the circumstances. In Illinois, your loved one can petition the governor for executive clemency and request a commutation (or shortening) of their sentence. You can assist this process in many ways.

For starters, you can help select a qualified attorney, who you trust and feel you can work with. The attorney will likely meet with your loved one and prepare the Petition for Executive Clemency. This form requires a personal history along with exhibits. You can provide information about your loved one’s life and help gather documentation such as family photos and character reference letters.

Finally, the attorney may request a hearing before the Prisoner Review Board. While prisoners are not allowed to attend, you, along with other witnesses, may testify on your loved one’s behalf. An experienced attorney can help prepare this testimony.

If you have questions about commutation, contact an experienced attorney. You do not necessarily need an attorney to file a Petition for Executive Clemency, but an attorney can best help in presenting a strong case. Witnesses often say things they think are helpful that have the exact opposite effect. What seems like reasonable justification to you can sound self serving to the Prisoner Review Board. An attorney can help you and your loved one avoid these pitfalls.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois executive clemency 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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