Illinois Republicans Host Early Release Hearing

By Gina Ford

August 11, 2010 Updated Aug 11, 2010 at 10:13 PM CDT

Just months from the November elections, Republican lawmakers host a hearing in Peoria.

They were looking at the impact of the state prison system's early release and good time meritorious programs.

Republicans leaders say after months of seeking answers on the state's early release program, they have run into dead-ends. Wednesday night, those in the trenches dealing with the repercussions of the program spoke up.

"When a judge sentences someone to the penitentiary, he sentences them for a determinable amount of time based on the crime that they did," said Mike McCoy, Peoria County Sheriff.

McCoy said the Early Release and Good Time Meritorious programs should not be releasing hardened criminals to unsuspecting communities, especially after a 2009 secret release allowed violent offenders to go free.

"It was not in fact an early release at all. All the Director did was start following the law, give people the good time to which they are entitled and let them go when their sentence is over," said legal director of a Chicago Non-profit law firm, Alan Mills.

Mills said the early release concept is misunderstood.

"There was an unwritten rule before saying that people had to spend at least 61 days in prison no matter how much good time they got back," said Mills. "The director stopped enforcing the unwritten rule and started enforcing the written law."

Lawmakers said that is little consolation for those who knew 41-year-old Orvetta Davis, killed in Peoria this year, allegedly by early parolee, Edjuan Payne.

"When we are trying to develop a case, not knowing that these people are back in our community make our job even harder," said the Sheriff.

Mills said, the homicide is tragic but no prison reform is perfect and with a 50 percent recidivism rate statewide, it's no indication that prisoners shouldn't be freed early.

Democratic Lawmakers in attendance say they hope their colleagues on the other side of the aisle will allow them to join the fight, because it is a problem that hits home for both parties.

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