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After 11-year-old boy dies due to parole board decision, reforms stall

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(The Center Square) – Amidst an audit revealing Illinois Prisoner Review Board flaws, House Bill 681 sought reforms, but stalled. The governor says there were issues with the measure.

The legislation was created in response to Jayden Perkins’ death. Perkins died trying to save his mom from an attacker who was released by the PRB.

Proving the flaws of the PRB is a recent Auditor General report that reveals the board gave compassionate release to individuals in custody who did not present a medical release form. Despite having bipartisan support, the bill didn’t advance and Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he and his administration were opposed to aspects of the bill.

“It’s not about transparency and to be honest with you, it’s about what’s actually possible. Also funding … there was no funding for any of the things that they suggested we should do,” said Pritzker when asked if he played a role in getting the bill to not advance out of the Illinois General Assembly.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said the brutal killing of an 11-year old boy, who died trying to save his mother from the attacker that was released by the PRB, happened in her district.

“When the attacker’s revocation hearing began, the PRB board member was unaware there was a pending hearing for an order of protection. There was no opportunity for the victim to present any testimony at [her abuser’s revocation hearing,]” said Cassidy.

Also highlighted in the audit were the vacancies on the board. According to Cassidy, her bill would address the vacancies by creating a task force. The task force seeks to fill the vacancies with qualified individuals.

“The task force will look at not just the size of the PRB but also the qualifications and if we are recruiting the right folks to be on the PRB. Are we structuring their work in such a way that it is possible to get enough qualified people to do the work?” said Cassidy on the House floor.

During a post-session news conference Wednesday, Pritzker said “we did, over the last couple of days, issue an executive order to do exactly what I said we’re going to do.”

However there is no recent executive order published pertaining to PRB reforms.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Jordan Abudayyeh, a Pritzker spokesperson, has said the legislation would be difficult for the review board to manage “given the volume of work they are expected to process every month.”

She said the governor’s office supports increasing transparency at the board and is working on an executive order to incorporate some of what’s in the legislature’s proposal.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said legislative measure would have been a step in the right direction. He said the bill sought to correct what he called Pritzker’s poor judgment when appointing certain members to the PRB.

“The PRB under Republican and Democrat administrations has operated pretty effectively. It wasn’t until Pritzker showed up and started putting unqualified people on the PRB we had the system break down and dangerous people were released and we had some tragic stories resulting from that,” said Plummer. “Everyone stood up and said [what happened to Perkins] can’t happen again. You have Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate who came together and came to a bipartisan solution to this issue. Governor Pritzker, because his political ambitions are far more important than public policy, again, killed a common sense, bipartisan reform to keep the people of Illinois safer.”

Plummer said he believes Pritzker worked with House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, to squash the bill.

“They sent a completely inaccurate, and purposefully dishonest message to the House Democrats last week to try to sink bipartisan support,” said Plummer. “This governor is not interested in public safety or prioritizing victims. He’s just trying to appease far-left political activists because it improves his national profile.”

Plummer commented on the audit and how Pritzker said there wasn’t funding for what the legislature wanted in the proposed legislation.

“He claims there’s not enough money for the PRB reforms, but he’s the one who cut the budget for the PRB,” said Plummer. “In April his office said what we proposed was already standard practice … so that’s interesting he says it’s unworkable. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

Plummer said he hasn’t seen any recent executive order reforming the PRB.

“It wouldn’t be the first time he’s misled the people of Illinois,” said Plummer.

Cassidy advanced the bill out of the House, but a Senate amendment was not brought up for concurrence. She said on the House floor that her bill would have required board members complete training on gender-based violence.

“[The bill] requires the board to notify any registered victims of a crime when the offender of such crime is being released from state custody,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy said the bill will require the PRB to actually check prior to the beginning of a revocation hearing to see if there are outstanding issues.

“The reality of these hearings is that very often the report to prepare for the hearing is completed days or weeks prior to the actual hearing,” said Cassidy. “This bill requires that they take a look and make sure they are not missing anything and that the report is fully up to date.”

Perkins was killed by Crosetti Brand in March. Jayden Perkins’ mother filed for an emergency order of protection against Brand on Feb. 21, 2024. The judge denied her emergency order of protection because Brand was incarcerated, but according to Cassidy, a PRB member who helped decide on the release of Brand was unaware that there was a pending hearing for the order of protection.

The legislature adjourned for the summer.