Photo of Rachel White-Domain

Rachel White-Domain

  • Hosted by Illinois Prison Project
  • Sponsored by Albert & Anne Mansfield Foundation
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school DePaul University College of Law
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Rachel provided direct representation to incarcerated gender-based violence survivors whose crimes were related to surviving abuse in post-conviction, commutation, and resentencing cases.

A 2010 study found that 98% of people in Illinois’s women’s prisons have been physically abused. For many of these survivors, victimization is linked to criminalization, including in cases of self-defense. However, survivors who do not fit into the narrow archetype of the “true victim” are frequently not believed and are convicted and harshly sentenced. In addition to self-defense cases, many incarcerated survivors were forced to participate in their abusers’ crimes and then convicted under Illinois accountability laws, which provide that an accessory to a crime receives the same sentence as the principal. However, access to legal assistance in post-conviction and commutation cases is almost nonexistent. This project worked to fill that gap.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Rachel:

  • Represented 24 incarcerated gender-based violence survivors in 26 post-conviction, resentencing, and commutation cases; provided advice or brief legal services to 88 survivors and other individuals
  • Provided numerous consultations to attorneys and organizers in Illinois and across the country  
  • Following the COVID-19 pandemic, advocated for the release of medically vulnerable people
  • Assisted in bringing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of incarcerated people at risk due to COVID-19 
  • Compiled data on 50+ resentencing cases to illustrate gaps in current laws providing avenues for relief   
  • Compiled data on 340+ murder cases to map gender-specific incarceration disparities 

Next Steps

Rachel’s project became a permanent program of Illinois Prison Project (IPP). IPP’s Women & Survivors Project will continue to provide direct representation to gender-based violence survivors in post-conviction, resentencing, and commutation cases, as well as to incarcerated women in cases involving issues that disproportionately impact women such as post-partum psychosis.


Illinois Prison Project Website

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