Lester Mason’s life sentence under review as COVID-19 targets prisons

Jennifer Soble

Jennifer Soble, executive director of the Illinois Prison Project, filed a petition for clemency for Lester Mason. (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Lester Bobby Mason, 76, has been asking for a sentencing review and clemency for nearly 40 years. He now has that opportunity.

He was sentenced to natural life in prison with no chance for parole under the now-widely discredited three-strikes and you’re out legislation. He contends he was armed in one robbery but not three. He also points out he never shot, killed, stabbed or raped anyone. In fact, no one was harmed in his robbery attempts, he has said.

Mason’s case came to the attention of Jennifer Soble, executive director of the not-for-profit Illinois Prison Project. She reviewed the case and filed a petition on Mason’s behalf.

Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos said now that the petition is filed, it is in the hands of Gov. JB Pritzker. If he reaches out to her, she will review and determine whether or not she will object. At this point, she said, she cannot announce her determination. The normal procedure would be to contact victims and family members.

Hoos received about four other clemency petitions at the same time.

“I know the governor has a stack of these on his desk,” she said.

Soble heads an organization that advocates for more justice, more reasonable sentencing and representation for elderly inmates

In Illinois, 20 percent of people in state prisons are elderly. Research widely confirms that releasing elderly prisoners does not create a public safety issue. Yet, elderly inmates remain behind bars at a cost of about $70,000 a year.

“Sentences are imposed that are far too long. We have not seen enough needed reform,” Soble said. “Geriatric, disabled and medically vulnerable people have aged out of any criminality. They are a huge drain on the prison healthcare system. They are a great public cost.”

She calls the three-strikes legislation “outrageous.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *