The zine, entitled After the Trial, helps prisoners and their loved ones navigate post-conviction litigation in Illinois courts
City Bureau, a civic journalism lab working to produce equitable, inclusive news coverage and democratize media access, has published a 32-page zine to help Illinois prisoners and their loved ones understand their legal options and access the resources they’ll need to navigate the courts.
After the Trial was developed and written by Ellen Mayer with support from her reporting team members Manny Ramos and Bashirah Mack during City Bureau’s Spring 2018 Civic Reporting Fellowship cycle. Led by Ramos, the team spent the fellowship reporting about a young man who has been trying to fight his murder conviction for 10 years through multiple appeals and post-conviction petitions. In some cases, he chose to represent himself rather than pay for a lawyer.
Mayer originally conceived of After the Trial as a companion to her team’s other stories. “It was important to me that we create something for the communities we were writing about. So I developed this zine in the hopes that it would be useful for people in the same position as this young man and his family.”
Mayer is a freelance journalist who has covered government and politics for South Side Weekly and The Hoodoisie as well as her own podcast, IlliNoise. “The goal of my work is to make information about government more accessible and user friendly,” she said. “I saw an opportunity to do something similar around the judicial system during this fellowship. But in order to reach the people who need this information most, we needed to make something that could be mailed to Illinois prisons.”
After The Trial provides clear, plain-English explanations of post-conviction legal remedies in Illinois, warns about common challenges and pitfalls facing people who represent themselves, and shares wisdom both from lawyers and formerly incarcerated people. The zine also highlights resources available to Illinois prisoners and their loved ones, including legal books, public law libraries and monthly reunification rides for children with incarcerated parents.
City Bureau is accepting tax-deductible donations in order to fund a Spanish version of the zine. Proceeds will go toward translation, editing, factchecking and legal review.
Voices in the zine include Monica Cosby from the Westside Justice Center, Brian Nelson from Uptown People’s Law Center and Orlando “Chilly” Mayorga from Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. All three of them are former prisoners whose input was integral to the creation of After the Trial. The zine also features lawyers Alan Mills from UPLC and Vanessa Potkin from the Innocence Project.
The illustrations in After the Trial are by Jamie Hibdon of the Illustrated Press. The layout is by Bea Malsky. The Invisible Institute provided legal review.
For press inquiries, contact
Ellen Mayer, Former City Bureau Fellow and Zine Author