Senators push for answers on release of violent felons

In response to news that the Pritzker administration is releasing a number of felons from Illinois prisons, including convicted murderers, State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield), a former prosecutor, and several of his colleagues sent a letter to the Governor today asking for answers.

“We don’t know if this is related to a plan to reduce prison populations in response to COVID-19, or if the administration is using the pandemic as a cover to hide the releases,” said Senator McClure. “Either way, releasing violent felons, including convicted murderers, seems like a danger to public safety.”

The letter specifically cites the case of Alma Durr: Ms. Durr took a revolver, held it to her 21-month-old son Darryl’s head, and pulled the trigger. A news story from the trial indicated that Darryl moaned and suffered but did not die for another two hours. Despite DCFS’s best efforts to protect Darryl, he will never get to see his 50th birthday. His murderer, at 50 years-old, will be leaving a prison that currently has no inmates infected with COVID-19 (according to IDOC’s website). She had been sentenced to life.

It also notes that many of the releases, including Durr’s, involve commutations, not pardons, which would typically imply that the individual is assumed to be guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced.

The letter asks several questions and 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.

“The people of Illinois deserve answers as to why the Governor is reportedly releasing violent felons into their communities with little to no transparency, said McClure. “At a time when the doors of many businesses across the state are closed due to a pandemic, we shouldn’t be opening the doors of our prisons to let violent offenders out.”

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