The [Thursday] Papers
Lura Lynn Ryan is in the intensive care unit, prompting state political reporter Rich Miller to write:
"I've said in the past that the law, not emotions, should decide whether George Ryan is released from prison. But it's darned difficult to watch Lura Lynn Ryan's possibly imminent death play out in front of my face without thinking that the former governor ought to be let out for a few hours to be by her side."
But what about all the other relatives of prisoners whose seemingly final days don't play out in front of our faces? What about all those poor - and mostly minority - prisoners who don't have the benefit of TV cameras and Jim Thompson and Michael Sneed and other media allies to advocate for them?
I'm not unsympathetic, but I have less sympathy for the Ryans than virtually anybody else in prison facing the same situation. What about them?
This is a question other pundits have asked, but reporters have failed to answer. It isn't just theoretical.
"A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons said the prison warden in Terre Haute, Ind., where the former governor is being held, has the discretion to approve his release," the Sun-Times reports.
"According to its website, bureau policy allows inmates to win a temporary release for several reasons, including a family member's illness: 'The bureau may authorize staff-escorted trips for purposes such as visiting a critically ill family member; attending a funeral; receiving medical treatment or participating in educational, religious, or work-related functions.'
"'An inmate can make a bedside request to a warden,' said Traci Billingsley, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman."
What I want to know is how many requests Illinois prison officials get for bedside releases every year and how many are granted. Then we will know just who deserves our sympathy.
And then I want to see Thompson and Miller and Sneed advocate on behalf of everyone else in prison in the same situation. It might be "Too painful to watch" for Miller only because he doesn't have to think about the rest of the prison population that never gets on TV.
"Contrary to media reports, Meritorious Good Time-Push (MGT-Push) has not been responsible for a single illegal or premature release of dangerous criminals or for the commission of additional violent crime," a report into the early-release program found. "MGT-Push did not cut prison sentences by months or years. It did not add to the public risk or endanger public safety. And it was not 'secret' . . .
"The facts are, then, that in implementing MGT-Push, Randle at most marginally changed the 'good time' equations that had been in place since the legislature approved up to 180 days credit at the behest of the Thompson administration in 1990. The amount of time by which short term prisoners' time to serve was reduced by MGT-Push amounted to less than 2% of the time the overall MGT program reduced prison terms for the 24,172 prisoners who received on average 135 days' credit in FY 2009.
"With these facts in plain view, one might have thought that a reporter looking for a story would not have found it in MGT-Push . . .
"In the summer of 2010 Republicans in the state legislature called for an investigation of the "secret" early release program. Claiming that the Democratic leadership refused to hold hearings or provide information, Republicans formed a panel and scheduled public forums on MGT-Push. They selected Peoria, Ill. for the first hearing because it was the location of a brutal murder allegedly committed in May 2010 by a former prisoner named Edjuan L Payne who had been released from prison in September 2009 through the MGT-Push program . . .
"As it developed, and contrary to impressions created in the media, Payne's being out of prison at the time of the murder had no direct connection to MGT-Push . . .
"On Friday, August 13, 2010, the (Quinn) Administration publicly released the Report on the Meritorious Good Time and MGT Push Programs prepared by the Committee chaired by David Erickson . . .
"Almost without exception, news media and editorialists accepted the Erickson Committee's bottom line and eminently quotable finding: 'The MGT Push program was a mistake.' Almost no one noted that while generous in its criticisms, the Erickson report failed to report a single case in which an inmate released under MGT-Push was a) released contrary to law; or b) caused harm or injury to another person during the days in which the prisoner was in the community due to MGT-Push."
Apparently, early release is only for those the political-media establishment decide it's for.
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Posted on January 6, 2011
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