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It’s Christmas and my son is dying in Stateville Correctional Center.

It’s Christmas and my son is dying in Stateville Correctional Center.

 Johnny is in dire need of a kidney transplant. His precarious health is now in greater danger than ever with the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 spreading. Even if Omicron proves less lethal for most people, the highly transmissible variant could imperil Johnny as prisons across the country have had great difficulty protecting those in their care.

While we would love to establish Johnny’s innocence in a court of law, right now the focus is on clemency due to his health conditions. Yet Gov. J.B. Pritzker denied his most recent petition.

The inhumane conditions in Stateville are certainly killing Johnny who at age 39 has been given three to five years to live. And it could well be considerably less. He has kidney failure and is on dialysis. I had to plead with the regional director of the Illinois Department of Corrections to get Johnny on the list for fistula surgery. Without the surgery, Johnny would not have been able to receive dialysis and would have been gone by now. With kidney failure, the dialysis will only sustain him temporarily. He will only survive with a kidney transplant.

At one point, Johnny had 12 percent kidney function back. Now it is down to two percent. The dialysis he receives is essential to his well being and his very ability to stay alive. After dialysis, Johnny sometimes sleeps for 18 or 19 hours and occasionally goes into a coma, passes out, and gets injured when he falls. He is not always rushed to the hospital when needed.

When he had pneumonia, he was kept in the prison’s infirmary. I was scared to death for him. As his condition worsened, he was finally rushed to the hospital. At that time, I didn’t even know where he was.

 Now I’m battling with Stateville as they continue to refuse providing me with crucial information about his blood tyoe that would help in our struggle to find him a kidney donor.

I thank God for his cellmates who have called for medical assistance when he needs it. Mostly, he’s now in a wheelchair though he can walk short distances when needed.

My son Johnny is bloated and occasionally requires emergency insulin injections. He has suffered a heart attack, has neuropathy and hypertension. His many conditions can make urinating difficult.

My struggle for Johnny’s clemency is part of a larger struggle across the state of Illinois. The design of prisons is unsafe for anyone. Policy reinforces this danger. Incarcerated people are more likely to contract serious diseases.

Health experts say that as prisons become more and more overcrowded, the lack of health protections and care for inmates is ignored. Organizations like Decarcerate Illinois have been advocating for quality healthcare and for immediately reduce Illinois’ record high prison population. For inmates with illnesses like Johnny’s, the profound harm they face is but one of the many ways prisons deny the humanity of incarcerated people.

For all the medical difficulties he’s endured in recent years, the worst of it is what Johnny reported to the warden, that, in 2017, he was assaulted by a nurse while in diabetic shock. Another nurse, also present during the incident, told him, “I hope you die.” Until now, his report has been met with virtual silence.

Alan Mills, Executive Director of the People’s Law Office, called attention to the unjust health care system in prison when he sued the Illinois Department of Corrections. In the lawsuit, he says, “Prisoners are provided care which is so inadequate that serious illnesses are left untreated, people are forced to live in pain for months with easily treatable conditions, and in some cases have suffered permanent damage, had legs amputated, and even died as a result.”

Johnny is a threat to no one, with exemplary prison behavior, and certainly the governor can see that documented in the medical reports on my son’s declining health.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are among the hardest times. There is an empty seat where Johnny should be. A plate is always put out for him. For all these years, since Johnny’s conviction in 2013, we have been a traumatized family – routinely sick, devastated and grieving.

After being caught up for so many years in the violence of the prison industrial complex, I am actively involved in activist groups fighting to end the injustices of this system.

Many mothers and families I have met know that our loved ones are not the same people – mentally or physically – who went into those difficult and dangerous living conditions. They are much like me, traumatized, and that pain constantly threatens to take us down.

I am lucky that Johnny helps me keep my faith and hope alive, telling me that God is with him. We have to believe that he will come home before it is too late.

Thinking of my son living at the edge of death in prison is my worst nightmare. Vigilance is required to keep him alive and I worry that he is not a priority in our overcrowded and understaffed prison facilities. I can’t bear the thought of one day getting the call that he’s gone.

The governor’s power to pardon and commute sentences is absolute and he can do it at any time, for any reason.

No one should die in prison.

My hope and my demand is that Governor Pritzker can see to it that doesn’t happen in Johnny’s case by revisiting his petition and commuting his sentence NOW.

View Comments (4)
  • This mother is in such denial. It’s honestly sad. I hope no one actually tries to fight free her son. He is absolutely guilty and deserves to die in prison

  • He had no compassion for his own sons uncle and grandparents. He also wanted his son’s mother dead. Not a threat? He’s a threat to his son and his son’s mother. No way would any governor release him. This poor woman is so delusional. If it weren’t for her son, 3 people would still be alive! She speaks of God being with her son. Perhaps God is, and this is god’s vengeance for murdering innocent people?

  • Shame people don’t know the whole story of the case and how many wrongdoings happened during trial and other such things. As someone who was constantly there seeing all of it. It was insane. Most are guilty, some are innocent. People have chosen what they have. There is the medical reports of everything that he had and the medical in prison was like yours of a dr, psychiatrist or hospitals but when they sent someone from govt to examine him, it was actually misconducted but was taken no account in clemency from pritzker. Probably to keep his reputation high on a high profile case. Prisons are fucked up, guilty or not. It’s eerie to know more truth than what the media loves to portray and personal experiences with Kramer herself and Johnny. Really weird on what they bring up on one side and what they won’t equally bring up on the other person’s side. Such as things I remember being Johnny’s past but not Kramer. The one who did the actual shooting was given a lot of history of mental illnesses and drug usage, etc. Either way the world is always in the dark. You are guilty, well your family name is tarnished. You are innocent, guilty than later evidence or advance in technology show you to be retrialed and found innocent, your life is nothing and you are left with nothing. Also I’ve seen Kramer after a bit of the court case still having custody. It’s odd that she acts in a way she still does in terms of a simple one, clubs, partying, getting drunk and having fun which memory is a bit fuzzy but it wasn’t too long after this case depending on how long you would consider getting over the case, families deaths that shouldn’t have happened. Even the man who pulled the trigger had issues with her brother I believe. But there’s the melancholy saying of “life goes on”.

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