Covid has increased inmate release from jails and prisons only a little. Much remains to be done to correct conditions inside and to improve medical care. To access our page regarding current information for Coronavirus in our jails and prisons, please follow and click the red link here>>

IDOC INMATE EARLY RELEASE AGENCY PAGE and review the posts which follow below

The case information about Richard Wanke is password protected. Please email us at in order to gain access to the information. Please feel free to add your comments as you read. 

Richard Wanke was found guilty at a jury trial in March 2017, and given a natural life sentence. He is presently at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, IL.

Richard’s conviction was upheld by the IL Appellate Court in November 2019. His initial Post-Conviction petition was recently accepted in Winnebago County Court. A thorough of evidence shows there is NO basis for Richard’s conviction. Richard will need assistance by conflict-free counsel (which Winnebago County, IL is unlikely to provide him with) to proceed on his post-conviction petition. We ask that you please lend any pro bono assistance to Richard or consider a court appointment. We will sincerely welcome your help. Please please contact us at, or directly at (779) 348 – 2487. Other interested parties who can help publicize Richard’s case may also contact us via We also welcome Facebook readers of richardwanke and injustice everywhere to this site. 

Attention: Like so many other wrongfully convicted persons in IL, Richard Wanke, now has to prove his innocence after conviction. It’s very difficult for those who are innocent and wrongfully convicted to overturn convictions. For this reason, to help publicize their individual efforts and to help educate the public about the extent of wrongful convictions in IL, we’ve set up a Facebook page at the address below to post articles, podcasts, and discussions about wrongful convictions. We also welcome your participation on our Facebook page:

Talk: Suspect Convictions, at

There are two chances to watch the new Oxygen “Behind Bars” episode:

  • The “Behind Bars” TV episode mentioned in the poster above will premiere on TV on Saturday, September 28, 2021, at 8 PM in all markets except CST where it will air at 7 PM, on the Oxygen Channel. It contains separate, new video interviews by the producers with both Misook Nowlin, and Barton McNeil.
  • The episode will also reair on Sunday, September 26th, 2021, at 4 PM and 9 PM in all markets except CST where it will air at 3 PM and 8 PM.

On Tuesday, October 5th, 2021 at 7:00 pm there will be a special live presentation and airing at the Normal Theatre, in Normal, IL, of the Oxygen Network’s 2-hour premiere special “Snapped: Behind Bars” chronicling the Barton McNeil and Linda Tyda murder cases. This will be followed by a live expert discussion among distinguished panelists, and we urge everyone to attend (See flyer for tickets).

  • Barton McNeil is one of a group of convicted IL prison inmates from McLean County, IL, all convicted during the same time-period by the same authorities, and all serving long sentence terms who are trying to exonerate themselves. We have previously mentioned his case as a wrongful conviction.

Barton NcNeil is represented by the IL Innocence Project; (IIP), one of only a few Illinois legal assistance organizations that work to free people after they are wrongly convicted. Barton McNeil was convicted for the June 1998 death of his three-year-old daughter, Christina McNeil, who was found lifeless in her bed. Bart called 911 upon finding her unresponsive in the morning, and police initially treated her death as natural. That changed after Barton pointed out suspicious signs of entry to her room from outside. Barton suspected his girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, with whom he had just broken up. Police failed to pursue leads indicating Nowlin’s possible involvement in Christina’s death and instead Barton McNeil was tried and then convicted as his daughter’s murderer.

After Christina’s death and Barton’s conviction, Misook Nowlin, then went on to be independently convicted in 2013, of murdering her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda, by strangulation. Certain elements of Tyda’s death have been compared to Christina’s. Misook Nowlin has been featured as a murderess in a 2017 Oxygen TV episode of the show “Snapped” as well as in the “Broken Ties” season 11 episode 3 of the TV show “Deadly Women”.

Nowlin, lost an original appeal of her murder conviction and then a follow-up post-conviction challenge. She is presently serving 55 years in IL prison. Barton, by contrast, has recently been granted a rare opportunity in post-conviction to challenge in court faulty forensic evidence which was used to originally convict him. The Illinois Innocence Project is representing him in that matter, but his case is also garnering national attention. You can read here why the IIP took on his case:

Richard Wanke has recently submitted a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. The appeal filing was due this week after an extension was granted by the Court due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Writ was authored by the defendant pro se, meaning an attorney has not been appointed in this appeal thus far. Due to delays, the Clerk of the Court has indicated that in may be some time before a decision is rendered. The Court has assigned the appeal case number 20 – 5519 and the proceedings can be followed (here) and the Writ of Certiorari can be read here:


• A Writ of Certiorari asks the US Supreme Court to review legal disputes. The US Supreme Court is asked to review a large number of issues but only accepts for review about 1% of the cases submitted to it. The chance of Richard Wanke’s (or any defendant’s) Writ of Certiorari being accepted by the US Supreme Court is miniscule. While there are many issues of appeal in most criminal cases, the courts work to narrow review down to only a few issues in each case. A Writ of Certiorari is really the “Hail Mary” of the criminal appeal process and the last stage of trying to appeal issues present in court records. Most criminal appeals don’t win at this point but at the next stage, in a Post-Conviction Petition where the defendant, for the first time, has the chance to raise the issues which are NOT documented in the case record but which probably most directly resulted in the conviction.


As one Public Defender says in the article below, things have to be pretty bad
inside the County County Jail for inmates to rally together. Supporters have 
demonstrated outside the and the jail is under some court scrutiny but a lot 
more has to happen to cause the Federal court to order more jail releases.

The recent inmate attack at the jail highlights some flaws and lack of security
showing how even the jail guards in the maximum security unit are physically
vulnerable and short-staffed. That situation cannot safely continue during this
Covid-19 emergency.
Cook County Jail inmates begin refusing food over COVID-19, sheriff forwards their petition for better treatment to judge

“…inmates on three tiers in Division 11, and one tier in Division 10, have intermittently refused their food trays for a couple of days at a time in recent weeks, a statement from the sheriff’s office confirmed.

But it would be “reckless and inaccurate” to describe that as a hunger strike, sheriff’s officials said, noting that the detainees were eating food from the commissary instead and jail procedures define “hunger strike” as abstaining from food altogether.

Still, the sheriff’s officials confirmed they have forwarded a petition from the inmates, who requested their demands be reviewed by a judge.

Among their demands: release on bond, increased access to calls with family, cleaner conditions and a reopening of the courthouse so their cases could be heard more quickly. Thurman said he realizes the chances are slim that a murder defendant gets released on bond pending trial, so they were sure to make additional requests.

“(Refusing food) was based on trying to get us something, because of the fact they said we are violent criminals and cannot leave Cook County,” he said.

The jail has become a hot spot for the virus and a hot spot of controversy. Authorities have scrambled to release detainees in recent weeks in the hope of stemming the disease’s spread, with a focus on those facing nonviolent charges…”

While Covid-19 strikes jails and prisons, there is NO way authorities will be able to maintain sufficient staffing over time. Vulnerabilities and incidents such as this will continue as long as the jail keeps holding on to everyone instead of letting the non-violent out so there is enough staffing to keep violent inmates in order.

Had this pod been single-celled too, there could have been less injury.This shows both jail understaffing and poor logistical planning. Why was there only ONE guard on the catwalk and seemingly in the max pod at the start of the incident, and why was there no water in the cell to begin with given the guard is passing out food? Usually max pods have two officers to let inmates in and out of their cells. The officer’s physical position by the open door is innately vulnerable given the layout of the catwalk in relation to its staircase. The guard’s actions and movements before the attack are far too sloppy and unguarded. They left him vulnerable to attack not only by the inmate but the other door he unlocks while the inmate is freely moving around downstairs and unmonitored. With 2 officers it would not have involved soap because water should have been brought to the cell; not the inmate to the water.

This shows how the job of caring for inmates can render guards vulnerable and contradicts with their jobs and training to keep order. Guards aren’t used to having to do the amount of direct care and contact with inmates as they have to do with Covid-19 right now. When guards have to do something new they ordinarily don’t do and in ways they don’t normally have to do them; it wreaks havoc with the established methods in place that they already know how to follow in order to do their jobs safely.

VIDEO: Cook County Jail inmate attacks guards, steals keys, releases other prisoners

Report from Inside an IL Prison

Posted: April 8, 2020 by parchangelo in Greg Clark

In July of 1999, Barton McNeil was found guilty of first-degree murder of his three-year old daughter and sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence alone. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. In 2013, his ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin (whom he suspected from the start had killed his daughter) was convicted of the 2011 killing of her mother-in-law. Misook Nowlin’s behavioral history shows her to be either a sociopath or psychopath and very capable of murder. Bart now has to fight to regain his freedom while facing a threat behind bars to his very existence.

In addition to the various means of inmate-to-inmate transmission which Bart relates below, Covid-19 permeates throughout the very atmosphere which he and other inmates breathe while locked down inside their cells and surrounded by recycled air. Tthe numerous items brought to them which they touch and receive have been subjected to the touch of many unknown persons. Even the few cleaning supplies they use may harbor the virus.


FROM:  Barton McNeil

Date:  April 3, 2020

Subject:  Coronavirus

April 4, 2020

From inside Illinois Pinckneyville medium security prison, inmate Barton McNeil shares his coronavirus concerns.

Wearing gloves for the last few weeks, on April 2nd all of the prison staff are now also wearing facemasks in an effort to prevent the introduction of the virus into the prison from the outside. To date we are not aware of any inmates or staff here who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Then again, we are not aware of any testing having been performed at all.

Under a coronavirus lockdown, inmates in any given cellhouse are strictly segregated from inmates in any of the other cellhouses. Visits and inmate transfers suspended statewide, denied access to the gym, library, barbershop, and the chow hall with all of our meals now being served to us in the cells, there is little chance of transmission of the virus from one cellhouse to another.

Similarly, within each cellhouse none of the four wings’ inmates are able to interact with inmates on the other wings. Moreover, each of the wings’ two floors are now segregated from each other to prevent inmates on one floor from infecting the inmates on the wing’s other floor via person-to- person contact.

Taken a step further, each wing floor in now bisected down the middle to prevent inmates on one half of the floor from mingling with inmates on the other half. Accordingly, should any inmate contract the coronavirus, possible further transmissions (after first infecting his cellmate) would be strictly limited to only half of the inmates only on one floor of one cellhouse wing in only one of the (five) cellhouses. In short, the prison has greatly reduced any chance of inmate-to-inmate transmission of the coronavirus beyond half of a cellhouse wing’s floor constituting only 30 or so inmates.

Nonetheless, major shortcomings remain. Virus or not, basic hygiene items are not provided to inmates by the prison. Instead it is upon the inmates ourselves to purchase hygiene needs from the prison’s commissary at our own expense, or rather, at the expense of our families’ contributions to our inmate trust fund accounts. Woefully inadequate, only if an inmate is destitute will the prison supply him a week’s worth of a few hygiene items only once a month. For some not quite meeting the state’s criteria designating him as destitute, the inmate might forego the purchase hygiene items and spend his meager funds on writing supplies or snacks instead. Not provided to all inmates as a matter of policy, the burden and responsibility of purchasing basic healthcare/hygiene items falls on inmates themselves, itself increasing the likelihood of inmate-to-inmate coronavirus transmission. It may come as a surprise to those on the outside just how few basic necessities are provided to Illinois inmates by the prisons, which the inmates instead are expected to purchase themselves, including clothing items, shoes, pillows, etc.

Contrary to public pronouncements, another major healthcare shortcoming is the unavailability of cleaning supplies such as sanitizer and disinfectant with which to regularly clean our tiny living quarters, as recommended by healthcare professionals.

Throughout most of the cellhouses, typically cleaning supplies have always been offered to each cell every Sunday, which includes the use of a toilet brush, broom & dust pan, mop and bucket of floor cleaner, and a separate bucket of cleaning solution from which inmates will fill our empty soda bottles, ensuring us a supply of disinfectant all week long for cell cleaning

For the 200 or so inmates in the non-disciplinary wings of cellhouse #5, cleaning supplies are simply never provided. During my ongoing 7-month presence in #5 house, not once have any of the above cleaning supplies been distributed to the inmates on these wings (the other two wings being the disciplinary segregation unit), not even prompted by the recent outbreak of the coronavirus. Instead, only for the third time in recent weeks have we been offered only to dip a rag in a bucket of cleaning solution, the lone rag-dipping our sole means of disinfecting our living quarters for the next several weeks. Despite our increasing requests for cleaning supplies since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, which the other cellhouses’ inmates are afforded weekly as a matter of routine, cleaning supplies have not been forthcoming for us here.

In my opinion, the biggest threat of coronavirus exposure is from cellmate to cellmate. Unable to social distance from one’s cellmate in such tiny confines, should one contract the coronavirus, no amount of precautionary measures would prevent the cellmate from becoming infected also, effectively doubling the number of sufferers and the rate of transmission to other inmates, who in turn will infect their own cellmates, and so on, increasing the number of infectees exponentially.

Setting aside the cruel inhumanity of forcing two strangers to occupy the same space the size of your bathroom for 22 hours a day as is the “norm”, this “double occupancy” now poses a major health hazard for inmates and staff alike. Should one inmate contract the virus and potentially infect others nearby, invariably promptly transmitted to his cellmate, you would now double the number of coronavirus carriers in contact with the rest of the inmate grouping and attendant staffers.

Though there has been some lip service paid to the idea of easing prison overcrowding to lessen the chance of a coronavirus outbreak in the prisons by releasing early the inmates with only a short amount of time remaining of their sentences, I am not aware of a single one released early from this prison. While I cannot cite specific numbers, most inmates here at Pinckneyville have remaining sentences of only a few years, many completing their sentences in only a matter of a few months. Additionally, many here are mere violators of parole or probation and are not here as a result of recent criminal charges. Likewise, many are nonviolent offenders, lacking even disciplinary issues while incarcerated. Only a minority of inmates here have MORE than five years remaining of their sentences, of who many also happen to fall within the high-risk category of folks most susceptible to coronavirus mortality.

In my not-so-humble opinion, little danger to the wider public would result were the shorter-sentence half of Pinckneyville’s inmate population promptly released early, ending the increasingly dangerous (and inhumane) 22-hour-a-day two-person occupancy of a single prison cell. This early prisoner release policy would eliminate the otherwise certain transmission of the coronavirus between cellmates, and effectively reduce by half the number of potential infectees, and thereby limiting the rate of potential transmission only to the lone infectee’s lesser contact with fellow inmates at greater distances than between two inmates sharing the same cell. In releasing early many inmates prior to completing the short remainder of their sentences thus freeing up much bunk space, and ending the perilous practice of confining two to a cell for 22 hours a day, the remaining prison population with genuinely lengthy remaining sentences would indeed finally be socially distanced from each other (now without cellmates), as recommended in combating the coronavirus.

The potential life and death consequences to inmates and staff alike should a coronavirus outbreak take hold in the prison, the rate of transmission to others greatly increased by certain cellmate-to-cellmate infections, surely would justify the largescale early release of “short-timers” no matter the (surely lesser) consequences of shaving a little time off of their already-short remaining sentences.

The Coronavirus will potentially devastate IL prisons; its inmates and those in county jail throughout the state. We are compiling information about the Illinois Department of Correction’s response to the virus and county jails compared to the prisons and jails in other US states as well as the Bureau of Federal Prisons. We are also compiling information offered by prison experts and advocates on behalf of inmates.

You can find this information on our IDOC Agency IDOC Inmate Early Release Page. (<<< click on the red there)

Each day it is becoming more apparent just how inadequate the US response is to the coronavirus epidemic on both the national and local level regarding the safety of the general public. It’s further alarming and outrageous to read the news accounts and reports we’re compiling which show that Illinois’s efforts not only lag significantly behind those of most states but particularly so regarding the health and welfare of Illinois state and county inmates. Illinois county and state facilities have made little preparation for this epidemic compared to other states.

As of this date, at least 4 IDOC facilities have been locked down on medical quarantine for almost a week due to unknown illness. That includes at least 50 inmates at the Menard Correctional Center who suffer from “flu-like” symptoms, 60 inmates at Southwestern IL Correctional, and an unknown number at Robinson Correctional. Cook County Jail is also the first Illinois jail to report that Coronavirus testing is available for its inmates.

Despite the illness and numbers, the Illinois Department of Corrections publicly admits that it is not testing any inmates for Coronavirus. Nor has it said whether it intends to ever do so. (Click here)

Scott Reeder and Willis Kern get caught up in this episode discussing the emotionally charged allegation that Christina McNeil was sexually abused before death. The sensationalism of his allegation would certainly have swayed anyone towards convicting Barton McNeil. Yet there was no DNA, no penetration; just a little redness, swelling, and slight blood found in connection with her body. Remember too that police initially regarded Christina’s death as natural. Was her body injured when examined or samples were taken? Body orifices swell after death & Chrisina‘s was nearing rigor mortis.

Prosecutors didn’t charge Barton McNeil with sexual assault, so it’s likely they knew the evidence wasn’t strong enough to support them doing so, but the allegation was used at his trial. Yet, no one, especially Christina’s conscientious mother Tita saw any signs of abuse. We think it’s most likely that Christina was not sexually abused before she died. Reeder and Willis should have discussed how prosecutors were even able to raise this claim or suggest it at trial and how the court allowed it. We think this claim has little credibility. It’s credible to believe that Christina was killed by someone; an intruder, or possibly Misook Knowlin. Suffocating her quietly is possible. It really stretches credibility to believe that the person who killed her also sexually abused her at the same time. Attention is focused on her parents, and we seriously doubt either had a motive to do so.  Hopefully Reeder and Willis will spend time discussing the latitude prosecutors have in raising at trial inflammatory issues like this and using them to convict on slim or no evidence.

More critical is what Reeder mentions happened to Christina’s body: that it was cremated before a defense pathologist could examine it & that the court and Barton’s lawyer both agreed to this.If Barton’s lawyer was a party to this, that supports Barton McNeil’s claim that his attorney failed to represent him properly. Basically, by not opposing immediate cremation and ensuring the pathologist inspected the body, Barton’s attorney allowed the “spoliation” (or destruction) of critical and potentially exculpatory evidence against Barton McNeil.

This is the 2nd episode of Scott Reeder’s Suspect Convictions Podcast detailing the 1998 Bloomington, IL murder case of 3-yr old Christina McNeil. Her father was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. He is fighting for his exoneration with the help of the IL Innocence Project.

Suspect Convictions Episode 2 (Click on this link)

  NOV 3, 2017

GLT is partnering with the true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of 3-year-old Bloomington girl Christina McNeil.

Her father was convicted of the crime but has long maintained his innocence, claiming that an ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman later convicted in a separate murder. New episodes air Fridays on GLT’s Sound Ideas. You can also subscribe to the podcast.

A simple window screen and some spider webs may be the clues that exonerate a convicted murderer.

Christina McNeil, 3, who was found dead in her father’s apartment.

Christina McNeil’s lifeless body was found in her father Barton’s Bloomington apartment on June 16, 1998. Barton McNeil argued that cuts in the window screen were proof that someone broke in, killed Christina and snuck out. A judge convicted him anyway, and Barton is now in prison for the crime.

McNeil’s conviction is the focus of Season 2 of Suspect Convictions, a joint reporting project between GLT and investigative journalist Scott Reeder. McNeil maintains his innocence and claims his ex-girlfriend is the real killer. McLean County prosecutors say the right man is behind bars.

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has taken up McNeil’s case and is expected to file motions this fall in hopes of winning him a new trial. John Hanlon, IIP’s executive and legal director, said they’ll introduce new evidence that disproves the prosecution’s claim that Christina was sexually assaulted prior to her death, by showing that “artifacts” found on her body were not indicators of assault.

“This case is a priority for us for one reason, because we’re absolutely certain that Bart McNeil is innocent of this crime,” Hanlon said. “At the end of the day, a judge is going to be hard-pressed to say anything, but this was not a sexual assault situation.”

Episode 2 of Suspect Convictions, which debuted Nov. 3 on GLT, closely examines the window in the bedroom where 3-year-old Christina was killed.

McNeil told police the day of the murder he suspected his ex-girlfriend, Misook (Wang) Nowlin, snuck into his apartment and killed Christina. That theory has taken on new resonance after Nowlin was convicted in 2012 of killing her mother-in-law. Nowlin is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence. She could not be reached for comment.

Barton McNeil is serving his prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois.

Prosecutors claimed spider webs found on the window prove an intruder couldn’t have used that as an entrance, as that would’ve disrupted the webs. McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers’ office has reviewed the case and come to the same conclusion as his predecessor did: McNeil is guilty.

“As I read through it with an open mind and objectively, I became convinced that the conviction was correct,” said Mary Koll, an assistant state’s attorney in Chambers’ office. “I just think (the spider web) is one piece of the puzzle, and it’s one more thing that goes to the common-sense argument that what (McNeil is) suggesting happened here simply could not have.”

The existence of spider webs on the window when police investigated the crime scene doesn’t mean someone didn’t break in, said Todd Blackledge, a biology professor at the University of Akron who’s studied spider webs.

Certain spiders can spin webs relatively quickly, in as little as a half-hour, he said. Others take days.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity. I would not feel comfortable saying a spider web precludes the possibility that window screen was opened that night. I’d need more information,” Blackledge said.