What we do
The Elizabeth Fry Society of Illinois is dedicated to sharing the love of Jesus through improving the living, health and educational conditions of current inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections, which promotes opportunities to successfully reenter society.
To have an Elizabeth Fry Society of Illinois chapter for every prison facility in Illinois so that each committee can provide for the needs of the incarcerated where the prison system falls short.
Elizabeth Fry, Our Namesake
As the founder of The Elizabeth Fry Society of Illinois, I admire Elizabeth Fry. She was an extraordinary person who would go on to have a profound legacy with improving correctional institutions. In fact, she is the mother of prison reform in England in the early to mid 19th century. When she visited Newgate Prison in London, she saw the horrible living conditions of inmates and the reckless abandonment by the penitentiary administrators. Their cells were filthy with their own waste, violence among the incarcerated was normal and they were existing with no hope of reprieve. Elizabeth turned the women’s side of the prison around by treating the incarcerated as human beings, by providing them with clothes, food, instruction from Scripture and gave them skills to work on so that when they left prison they would support themselves in society.
Ms. Fry was one of the main inspirations for the Prison Act of 1823 which sorted prisoners according to their crimes and separated murderers from petty criminals. Other parts of the new law included abolishing solitary confinement and separating male and female convicts. Guidelines were established for every detail of an inmate’s life and the abuse of prisoners were investigated.
And even though her footprint on prison reform would be enough to characterize her as an important person in history, Elizabeth Fry did so much more with her life. She was responsible for creating libraries for 3500 naval coast guard men, she supplied women exiles with skills to use on their sea voyage that would allow them to survive when they landed in Australia. She mobilized her resources and business contacts to set up a soup kitchen and a warehouse for the homeless in London. She advocated for mentally ill prisoners, she mustered a movement in Parliament to stop Indian widows from killing themselves. Elizabeth founded a couple of schools, she organized a group of nurses to help the afflicted in the 1832 cholera epidemic and she prayed with women convicts before they were executed. On top of all that, she was a mother of 11 children, she was a wife and she persevered through occasional bouts of depression.
She saw individuals in custody as human beings created in the image of God. Yes, many of these people led destructive lives and harmed their families and their victims. But Elizabeth knew that once they came into contact with the living Lord, who was filled with compassion for them, their present lives would be changed for good. Elizabeth used her gifts of helping and mercy to reach others for Christ. We at The Elizabeth Fry Society of Illinois wish to do the same.