(The Center Square) – Illinois Senate Republicans demanded Wednesday that Gov. J.B. Pritzker release information about convicted killers who were recently released from prison early during a global pandemic.
Several state senators said in a statement that during the COVID-19 pandemic Gov. J.B. Pritzker had commuted sentences and released violent criminals from prison early, including convicted murderers.
"I find it troubling that not only have violent criminals been released, but that they have been released with so little transparency," state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said. "I recognize that this is a challenging time for Illinois, but we can't set a precedent of circumventing the mechanisms that are in place to protect the citizens of our state."
Pritzker was asked Tuesday why he would release convicted killers.
“Every time I consider a situation of somebody who’s asking for a pardon or commutation of their sentence, I’m taking into account how to make sure that we’re keeping the risk extraordinarily low,” Pritzker said. “And in the context of a pandemic, in the context of what we’re going through now with COVID-19, trying to make sure that we keep our prison officials, our officers who are working in the prisons and the people who are in prison who, some of them, are nonviolent criminals who were going to be led out in the next year anyway.”
The Republicans said residents deserve more information.
“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," said state Sen. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport. “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.”
Prison reform groups have said the state’s prison system isn’t equipped to handle the pandemic and there have already been reported coronavirus-related deaths and scores of positive cases among inmates and prison staff. They've advocated for the compassionate release of vulnerable inmates.
The group of GOP senators said it had filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Corrections for a full list of the names of inmates released before completing their sentence so far this calendar year. The request also asks for case numbers and other information.
The Illinois Department of Corrections didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.