Public deserves to know about reported release of felons

Senator Brian Stewart says the public deserves more information about news reports that the Pritzker Administration is releasing a number of felons from Illinois prisons, including convicted murderers.

Stewart and eight of his Senate colleagues have sent a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, asking for answers.

“Not only do we need more information about reports the Governor is releasing violent felons from prison back into our communities, we also deserve some explanation as to the reasoning behind such decision-making. COVID-19 concerns are valid, but any concerns about social distancing in prison should not LEAD with opening the doors and letting convicted violent felons out,” Stewart said.​

The letter specifically cites the case of Alma Durr, who killed her 21-month-old son Darryl by shooting him in the head. A news story from the trial indicated that Darryl moaned and suffered but did not die for another two hours. Durr had been sentenced to life, but is reportedly leaving a prison that currently has no inmates infected with COVID-19 (according to IDOC’s website).

The letter also notes that many of the reported releases involve commutations of sentences, not pardons, which would typically imply that the individual is assumed to be guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced.

The letter makes five specific requests:

1.      Notify and consult with the victims and/or their families, local law enforcement leaders, members of the General Assembly, presiding judges, witnesses, and state’s attorney’s offices before making any future commutation decisions;

2.      Provide us a full list of the names of those convicted inmates who have been released and publish it on IDOC’s website;

3.      Provide us with a complete list of the names of any prisoners that are currently under review to be released;

4.      Provide information regarding who you consulted before making each individual decision; and

5.      Provide information regarding the capacity for parole officers to handle all of these new cases.

“While it is certainly the prerogative of the Executive Branch and the Governor to release convicted felons, it strikes me as demonstrating reckless disregard for the safety of the citizens of Illinois in general, and the victims of the crimes and the witnesses against these felons in particular,” Stewart said.