Prosecutor of the podcast
The Illinois Department of Aging inducted Rochester resident David Risley into the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame at a ceremony on November 3 for his work on criminal justice reform. Left to right: Elaine and David Risley, Paula Basta, director of the Illinois Department of Geriatrics, and candidate John Hansen.
Photo courtesy of STACIE LEWIS“class=”uk-display-block uk-position-relative uk-visual-toggle”>
Although he has spent most of his life working in courtrooms and in the Statehouse, David Risley has found a new platform to advocate for criminal justice reform: the podcast microphone.
“If things were to change in the way we approach crime and criminal justice, it wouldn’t work from top to bottom,” he said. “It’s like trying to push the rope. You’re working on the wrong end. Public perceptions and the public opinion that stems from these perceptions must change. What changes that? By telling stories. It’s the way I communicate. Stories have to be told.”
Risley was a federal prosecutor in Springfield who focused on prosecuting drug conspiracies in central Illinois. This month, he was inducted into the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame.
Nominated for recognition by John Hansen, evening broadcaster for WICS-TV and bishop at Risley Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Just as Jesus Christ gave each of us a second chance, David believes that people who get out of prison deserve second chances, too,” Hansen said.
One of the people who prosecuted Risley and sent to prison for 17 years was Leonard Joyner, who was convicted of cocaine trafficking. Today Risley and Joyner are co-hosts of the “Voices of Justice” podcast.
Joyner said the show focuses on ways to help people who leave prison return to society. He pointed out that there are many obstacles that prevent criminals from obtaining jobs, housing, loans, and meeting other basic needs.
Joyner said that in future seasons of the podcast, they will likely explore other issues such as alternatives to imprisonment.
Risley’s frustration with the system, of which he was a part, is readily apparent. The prison has been dubbed “the college of crime”.
“In a way, we believe that justice is punishment, and that if we punish people enough, we will get rid of the crime problem,” Risley said. “Thus, we punish people by sending them to a ‘crime college’ with state-funded tuition, so to speak. We put them in a concentrated company of criminals, sometimes for years, and we expect them to come out less criminal than they were when they entered. And they have fewer alternatives because they have been convicted of crimes. .but we expect them to move forward.”
The 70-year-old Rochester resident added that our society needs to rethink how we tackle crime.
Former US attorney Roger Heaton described Risley as an accomplished attorney with a keen attention to detail as well as an ability to see the big picture.
“He was the prosecution team leader in the US Attorney’s Office for most major drug conspiracy cases during the 1990s,” he said. “David tried a lot of cases, and as a result, he needed to be very able to deal with minute details to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.”
But Heaton said his capabilities go far beyond that. He added that Risley sees the dangers of the criminal justice system and is an advocate for reform.
In fact, Heaton, who also served as former Governor Bruce Rauner’s chief of staff, said he enlisted Risley to lead efforts to bring criminal justice reform in Illinois.
In this role, Risley met again with Joyner, a man who successfully sued him. But Joyner has now started a directed program to help former offenders return to society.
The two became friends and eventually started hosting podcasts together.
Joyner said he enjoys producing the show with Risley, despite being sued by the man.
“You can’t always hold a grudge against someone,” he said. “There was nothing Mr. Risley did to me. It was my own actions. He was just doing his job. I went from thinking like a child to thinking like an adult. You have to learn to be willing to accept responsibility in order to move forward in life. You can’t You pass in life blaming others for a mistake you made.”
Scott Reader, Ann Illinois Times Staff Clerk, can be accessed at email@example.com.