(WAND) - Prisoners, including some with violent histories, have been released from custody as part of Governor JB Pritzker's COVID-19 response.
Over 4,000 inmates have been granted release since March 1, 2020, and only some of them were released by the governor's order. Pritzker is hoping to keep the virus from spreading in state prisons.
WAND I-TEAM investigator Chris Carter searched through 145 pages of inmate names to learn more about who was released. It should be noted that even though prisoners were released from a central Illinois prison, it does not mean a crime was committed in a central Illinois community.
Carter's search found the following information:
- 821 of the total inmates were convicted criminals
- Charges ranged from traffic violations to more violent crimes
- Logan Correctional Center: 231 released, 29 charged with violent crimes, 6 facing murder charges
- Decatur Correctional Center: 205 inmates released, 4 facing murder charges
- Lincoln Correctional Center: 21 men with violent crime convictions released, 1 convicted of murder
- Danville Correctional Center: 104 inmates released, 26 of them charged with violent crimes, 8 charged with murder
- Taylorville Correctional Center and Jacksonville Correctional Center: Combined 249 prisoners released, 56 convicted of violent crimes, 5 convicted of murder or second-degree murder
State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R) expressed his concern with the release of prisoners.
"It is disheartening that the governor, who is the governor of all of Illinois, is taking it upon himself to put these hardened criminals back into society," Caulkins said.
Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott echoed similar worries.
"We should not be using this as a way to lower and put people who ... these are the worst criminals ... and put them back out in the community," Scott said. "Unfortunately, a lot of them are just going to go back to committing crimes.
Pritzker's office told Carter less than 20 of the thousands of inmates released were granted clemency or pardoned. A spokesperson defended his decision in a statement.
"There is a clear process that has been used for decades when governors exercise their clemency powers," the statement said. "The Prisoner Review Board makes confidential recommendations to the governor, who reviews clemency petitions and takes action. The governor is a strong believer in criminal justice reform, and that means carefully and thoughtfully considering petitions for clemency from those who have demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation while serving their sentence."
Carter asked how many of the inmates released through Pritzker's order were from the recommendation of the review board. The governor's office originally declined to answer and referred WAND News to the board. On Thursday, the Department of Corrections provided documentation on those released by the Governor and their crimes
According to the review board, the Governor released 20 inmates across the state;. Of those 20, eight were convicted of murder, and six were sentenced to life sentences. More than half of those released still had a year or more left on their sentence with with dates of release set for: 2025, 2022, 2023, 2033, 2028, 2023, 2037, 2038, 2032, 2025, 2022.
WAND News asked the Governor about the releases during his news conference Thursday. The Governor said those he had acted on had six to nine months left on their sentence and the review board was only looking at "non-violent offenders," a contradiction of the documentation provided by the Department of Corrections.
Two of the inmates released by the Governor's actions include two from the Logan Correctional Center. David Price was serving 35 years for burglary, theft and possession of a weapon in a penal institution. He was set to be released on November 11, 2022. Lewis Henry, who was serving 80 years for procession with intent to deliver was set to be released on August 12, 2037.
On Thursday, the Governor said some of the inmates released by his actions were petitions to his office for clemency, and were not recommendations by the review board due to his directive.
WAND News has asked the Governor's office about the discrepancy between his statements on Thursday and the information provide by the Department of Corrections. We will update this story when that information is provided.