Elderly and imprisoned: The 10 oldest female prisoners in Illinois

July 21, 2017

America’s elderly prison population is growing and it’s growing quickly.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, the number of prisoners in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons correctional system age 50 or older saw a 300 percent increase between 1994 and 2011. And research shows that increase is only going to grow steeper.

But why are the elderly currently experiencing a higher rate of imprisonment than any other time in American history? It all comes down to recidivism and the factors that contribute to it. Inmates who experience health issues like mental illness and substance abuse aren’t guaranteed treatment even if they’re released from prison. Because of the lack of access to resources or a family they can stay with, these older members of society will inevitably become repeat offenders. One of the key findings showed 58 percent of pre-release and 55 percent of post-release registrants needed mental health or substance abuse treatment.

Illinois has ambitious goals to change the number of inmates, as a whole — not just the older ones. When Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015, he set a goal to reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2025. During his tenure so far, the state’s prison population dropped 9.1 percent to just under 44,000. Rauner is looking for solutions that don’t just focus on discipline. In December, he signed into law a bipartisan bill that ensures people being released from prisons or juvenile detention facilities would have a valid state identification card.

“Criminal justice is not just about punishment,” he said at the time. “If we think that it’s only about punishment, we will never keep the people of Illinois safe.”

However, Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, noted in a December op-ed for the State Journal-Register in Springfield that the measure didn’t go far enough.

“What [the bill] fails to address is the major barriers that prevent Illinois inmates from obtaining permanent state ID cards upon release. It does not assist inmates in obtaining the underlying identification documents, like birth certificates and Social Security cards, needed to get a permanent state ID card.”

So it seems that for now, Illinois’ aging population will continue to age, just like the rest of the country. We highlight the state’s 10 oldest female prisoners, below. 

To see the oldest male prisoners in Illinois see our related post, here.

10. Tauheedah Rasool, 70


  • DoB: Dec. 11, 1946
  • Offense: Aggravated Battery with a Firearm
  • Committing County: McLean
  • Parent institution: Decatur
  • Current admission date: 1/25/06
  • Projected discharge date: 2/23/23

From the Illinois Pantagraph (Jan. 2006)

Tauheedah Rasool sat in silence as Judge Ronald Dozier announced her sentence in the shooting death of Billie Spiller at Beauty N-U Barbershop Salon. Rasool shot and killed Spiller Nov. 5, 2004, after the Bloomington woman hit her in the back of the head with a purse. Before being sentenced, Rasool told Dozier she believed the attack was ‘a life-threatening situation.’

9. Ofelia Garcia, 70


  • DoB: Nov. 2, 1946
  • Offense: Heinous battery
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Logan
  • Current admission date: 11/3/10
  • Projected discharge date: 3/20/49

From the Chicago Tribune (Nov. 2010)

Esperanza Medina, 50, was headed to her job as a social worker on a July morning in 2008 when the teens doused her in battery acid, severely burning a quarter of her body, Medina said. The assault left Medina unemployed and permanently disfigured with thick white and red scars across her face, neck, chest and arms. Separate juries convicted Ofelia Garcia, 61, and her former daughter-in-law Maria Olvera-Garcia, 37, in September of plotting the assault after Garcia’s longtime boyfriend ended his relationship with both women to live with Medina.



8. Barbara Alexander, 69


  • DoB: Sept. 12, 1946
  • Offense: MANU/ DEL SCHED I/ II / SCH/ HS/ PK
  • Committing County: McLean
  • Parent institution: Decatur
  • Current admission date: 5/4/16
  • Projected discharge date: 10/19/22

7. Christine Kazmirzak, 71


  • DoB: Sept. 7, 1946
  • Offense: Murder/ intent to Kill/Injure
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Logan
  • Current admission date: 2/13/03
  • Projected discharge date: 6/16/25

6. Pearl Tuma, 72


  • DoB: March 23, 1945
  • Offense: Murder
  • Committing County: Cook
  • Parent institution: Logan
  • Current admission date: 7/16/80
  • Projected discharge date: Life

From a 2014 edition of Statesville Speaks (Page 9):

Not a day has passed that I don’t think about the man I shot or the terror I created. I shot a man while on a shoplifting spree because he attempted to stop me. I pray each day for the victim’s loved ones and friends whom I know still miss him. My life has been consumed with guilt, and I have thought of that one day over and over, replaying its events and wishing that miraculously its outcome could be changed. In my heart I harbor the deepest regret and remorse.” 

5. Mary E. Ramos, 73


  • DoB: June 17, 1944
  • Offense: Calculated Crime conspiracy
  • Committing Rock Island
  • Parent institution: Decatur
  • Current admission date: 8/26/10
  • Projected discharge date: 3/3/23  
  • From the Quad-City Times (March 2010)

Agents of the Quad-City Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or MEG, have arrested a mother and her daughter and a man and his brother in connection with a cocaine trafficking ring after a six-month investigation.

Mary E. Ramos, 65, of 515 8th Ave., Silvis, was arrested after MEG agents, along with other city, county and federal agents, raided her home at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, said MEG Director Chris Endress.

4. Ann M. Jones, 73


  • DoB: Oct. 8, 1943
  • Offense: Murder/ Intent to kill / Injure
  • Committing Dupage
  • Parent institution: Logan
  • Current admission date: 2/9/01
  • Projected discharge date: Life

From the Chicago Tribune (March 2000):

Todd C. Jones was awakened early one morning to the sounds of multiple gunshots in the Bloomingdale home he shared with his father.

His mother, Anne Marie Jones, had entered the home and shot to death his father, Michael Jones, to whom she had been married for 29 years.

Earlier this year, Anne Marie Jones, 54, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the Aug. 23, 1998, killing. She is in DuPage County Jail awaiting sentencing.

Now her only son is seeking monetary damages from her in connection with the murder.

3. Susan M. Hertzberg, 75


  • DoB: July. 18, 1942
  • Offense: Cannabis tracking
  • Committing Henry  
  • Parent institution: Decatur  
  • Current admission date: 8/16/16
  • Projected discharge date: 2/21/25

From QConline.com (Oct. 2012):

Roger and Susan Hertzberg, of Las Vegas, on Thursday were sentenced in Henry County Circuit Court to 12 years in prison and three years mandatory supervised release for Class X felony cannabis trafficking.

A state trooper testified at their preliminary hearing in April that he checked out a pickup in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Geneseo, registration of which was not current. The vehicle didn’t match the make or model on the registration. Ultimately 48 pounds of pot was found under the tonneau cover.

2. Roberta Henderson, 80


  • DoB: Sept. 7, 1936
  • Offense: Criminal trespassing
  • Committing Livingston
  • Parent institution: Decatur  
  • Current admission date: 2/23/16
  • Projected discharge date: 7/29/19

1. Shirley Skinner, 82


  • DoB: March 7, 1937
  • Offense: Murder/Intent to kill/Injure
  • Committing County: Cass
  • Parent institution: Logan
  • Current admission date: 6/15/10
  • Projected discharge date: 10/7/2067

From the State-Journal Register (May 2010): 

Ed Skinner says his mother is innocent and that Jennifer Watkins is the real killer.

“My mom didn’t do it,” Ed Skinner said in a breaking voice minutes after Shirley Skinner was found guilty Thursday of shooting to death Steven Watkins, Jennifer Watkins’ estranged husband, in 2008. “She’s taking the rap for it. I hope she’s satisfied.”


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