Lee V. Gaines

Lee V. Gaines is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, Crain’sthe Pacific Standard and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with Chicago non-profit journalism lab, City Bureau. 

Lee has more than six years of experience producing breaking news, magazine-length feature stories and investigative reports on subjects including education, the medical marijuana industry, criminal justice reform, social justice, local and regional politics, in addition to stories about Chicago’s thriving music and arts scene. 

A Rhode Island native, Lee began her career as a staff reporter for GateHouse Media New England covering the Boston suburbs.

Lee reports on education from Illinois Public Media as part of the Illinois Newsroom regional journalism collaborative.

Lance Pittman arrived at the Danville Correctional Center on Jan. 10 with multiple boxes of books, and bound printouts of articles and book chapters. Pittman coordinates a college in prison program called the Education Justice Project, which offers University of Illinois classes to a select group of men at the Danville prison. 

John Locher / AP

A progressive Jewish organization is hosting a workshop in Champaign on Thursday evening to help educators identify and counteract white nationalism in schools. It’s one of a series of events hosted by Bend the Arc:CU focused on increasing community safety.

JGLSONGS / CC- by 2.0

Beginning next year, Illinois schools will be required to include the positive contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in their history curriculum.

JanetandPhil / Flickr

State lawmakers expressed outrage during a legislative hearing Thursday over the issue of affluent families from Chicago suburbs transferring guardianship of their children to another adult in order to qualify them for need-based financial aid they otherwise wouldn’t receive.

Dianne Gordon, a mom who lives in Champaign, knew something was wrong with her daughter Rory the minute she stepped off the school bus one afternoon in April. 

Carter Staley / Illinois Public Media

Illinois is now the third state to require graduating high school seniors fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA form.

Carter Staley / Illinois Public Media

Illinois is now the third state to require graduating high school seniors fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA form.

Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

A recent study from the University of Illinois found that black middle school students were less likely to be warned by a teacher about misbehavior than their white peers.

Sean Powers / Illinois Public Media

University of Illinois officials say they will take extra steps to vet financial aid applications from students involved in guardianship cases. The decision comes after university officials identified 14 instances in which parents had a student put under the guardianship of a friend or relative so they could qualify for more financial aid.

Steven Brewer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new state law directs the Illinois Department of Human Services to create an online database with mental health resources that parents and school staff can use to help students.

asalexander / Flickr / CC-by 2.0

The American Civil Liberties Union sent letters to eight Illinois municipalities last week urging them to repeal their panhandling bans. The nonprofit organization warned of legal action if community officials don't heed their warning.

The new director of the Illinois Department of Corrections said during a legislative hearing in Chicago on Monday that the agency plans to revise its policy regarding what books can and cannot enter the prison. 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is cosponsoring legislation that would rollback one of the provisions of the 1994 crime bill. It’s called the Restoring Education and Learning Act— or REAL Act. The bill would restore Pell Grant eligibility to people incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Illinois lawmakers plan to ask state prison officials why more than 200 books were removed from a colle

Augie Torres said he missed between seven and 10 job interviews when he was released from prison in October 2014 because he was on an electronic monitor that barred him from leaving home except for certain hours three days per week.

Just because someone has four walls around them every night, that doesn’t mean they’re housed. That’s what Paul Hamann believes. He’s the president and CEO of the Night Ministry, a Chicago-based non-profit that provides shelter and healthcare services to the homeless.

Just because someone has four walls around them every night, that doesn’t mean they’re housed. That’s what Paul Hamann believes. He’s the president and CEO of the Night Ministry, a Chicago-based non-profit that provides shelter and healthcare services to the homeless.

 


Johnny Page saw something as a child that no young person should ever see.

“I witnessed my cousin being killed when I was maybe six, seven-years-old,” he said. Page said he was traumatized by the experience. He said he was overcome by a need to protect his family and friends. He became a fighter.  

Melissa Esparza fled her home in west suburban Chicago two years ago. Then 16, she said her parents became physically violent after years of verbal abuse.

 

Last summer, Chantil was forced to leave the townhome she shared with her two daughters and her mother in Des Plaines. (We’re withholding Chantil’s last name to protect her family’s privacy.) Her landlord wanted to sell the building, and Chantil had only about a month to find a new home. Landlords, however, kept turning her down because of her credit, and her income. Chantil makes $12 an hour at a department store.

Nicole Davis said her uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer after his release from prison in 2014. He was confined to his home because of an electronic monitoring device strapped to his ankle. He missed many necessary doctor appointments before he died, Davis said. She said that’s because he couldn’t get permission from his parole officer for the medical visits.

Illinois could save millions of dollars on incarceration costs if the federal ban on Pell Grants for inmates was lifted, according to a new report from the Vera Institute of Justice. Pell Grants are awarded to low-income undergraduate students to help them pay for college.

Perry Cline’s story is a remarkable one. He’s a formerly incarcerated 51-year-old man who overcame the odds to graduate from the University of Illinois last month.

Like many people coming out of prison, Perry Cline never thought he’d get a college degree.

 

“I thought I was just going to be another bum in the streets,” he said. “So I thank God that he got something else for me. And this is just the beginning.”

Last spring, Illinois Newsroom reported that the Illinois Department of Corrections spent less than $300 on books for all of its prisons the prior year. In a recent interview, IDOC Director John Baldwin said state lawmakers dictate how the agency spends its money.

Four years ago, Chris Miner decided to apply to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Then 40-years-old, Miner was encouraged to apply by a counselor at the community college he attended. He was told he was a shoo-in.

He sat down at his computer and started the application. But then Miner faced this question: Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

“I just sat there and stared at the screen for like 10 minutes,” he said. “It was like everything, every advancement I had made so far might be over with, maybe this is the end of the ride.”

The push to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois could get a jump-start early next year. State Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, said this week she plans to introduce legislation early next year to tax and regulate the use and sale of marijuana. Incoming Democratic governor J.B.

Earlier this year, I reported for Illinois Newsroom that the Illinois Department of Corrections spent less than $300 on books for its educational programs across more than two dozen state prisons last year. I also reported that figure represents a dramatic decrease in spending since the early 2000s when IDOC was spending roughly three-quarters of a million dollars per year on books in prisons.

Access to high-speed internet stops about seven miles east of both Nippersink School District 2 and Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157, according to Tom Lind. He’s the superintendent of both districts, located near the border of Wisconsin —  about 70 miles northwest of Chicago.

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