A local state lawmaker says that Governor J.B. Pritzker hasn’t been transparent on his release of felons from Illinois’ prisons. 50th District State Senator Steve McClure says that Pritzker needs to provide answers on who and why certain prisoners are getting released in the state right now. “We’re not hearing the names. There is no real transparency. The way that I found out about some of the people that were commuted and were released was by reading a news article in the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Tribune article didn’t even mention the 7 murderers whose sentences were commuted. It just lists the names of 3 of them. There’s a real lack of transparency in a time when everyone’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 crisis. My first thoughts are: ‘Why is he doing this now?’ Some of these reductions in sentences and some of these commutations have nothing to do with COVID-19. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
McClure says the way the Illinois Department of Corrections has been handling the outbreak needs changed. “We have some prisons that are having problems right now with COVID-19 and we have some prisons that are having little to no problems with COVID-19. Quite frankly, the way the Department of Corrections has been handling the first cases of COVID-19 and then the spread afterwards is something that needs to be taken into account and changed. The policies need to be changed. The question is whether there is legislation that needs to do that. The answer is ‘maybe.’ I’m on the Criminal Justice working group, and that was one of the things we had discussions about the last time we spoke. This idea of you either let these people go, some of which have committed horrendous crimes, or they have to stay here in this place where there is a high rate of infection for COVID-19. Those should not be the only options.”
McClure says it’s not right that violent offenders are being released while small businesses are forced to keep their doors closed. McClure along with several Republican colleagues sent a letter to Pritzker’s office asking for more consultation at the local level before a prisoner’s release. McClure says he’s unsure about the number of non-violent offenders being released because there has not been official list handed out by Pritzker’s office. “We don’t have a complete list. One of the things in the letter that we asked for was a complete list. We have a State Representative that has released a list. We have heard other names mentioned from law enforcement, and we have also heard individually. I spoke to one of my colleagues in the Senate who have told me about the numbers of those released in the county they represent, and that had a different number that we were told about how many were originally released from that particular county. We don’t even know what the proportions are [of violent and non-violent offenders] for any of the releases because we don’t have the people released in list form and we also don’t have all the commutations in a list form. Now, it has been reported in the media but, like I said, there are other lists out there. Well, which one is accurate? We don’t even know, but certainly the ones that cause me the most concern are these violent murderers. We need to know who all these people are and what the justification is for letting these types of criminals out of prison.”
McClure, who also practices as a private attorney, says that the citizens of Illinois and local law enforcement should have the correct numbers and the names released publicly. He says the governor’s office should help provide additional information and state funded resources at the local level to deal with any unforeseen issues.