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Bill would make release easier for some before parole board, legislator says


(The Center Square) – House Bill 5396 aims to ensure the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is complying with a law that was passed by the 102nd General Assembly creating a hearing procedure for those incarcerated to petition for medical release.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, is a sponsor of the bill that passed the Illinois House earlier this spring.

“This law passed this chamber in a bipartisan fashion in 2021. That act created a hearing procedure for incarcerated people, who are terminally ill or medically disabled, to petition for early release. This law has been in effect for a couple of years and there’s been a few implementation challenges,” said Guzzardi. “The PRB has implemented some of the language in a way that was different from our original intent. This bill is just clarifying that original bill to make sure the PRB complies with the spirit of the original law.”

State Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, said in his district the PRB released a criminal who had killed a cop and they didn’t allow enough time for the victim’s family to go on the record and object to the criminal being released.

“This is a bill that has been introduced to try to get more people released and the bill has no regard for victims at all,” McClure said.

HB5396 aims to clarify a procedure about when hearings are private versus public.

“We had intended for people to be able to request their hearings to be made private, if they didn’t want their medical information to be disclosed in a public setting, but the PRB has interpreted that as the hearing should be private by default and only public by request,” said Guzzardi.

McClure said another thing to consider is that a criminal could be deemed “terminally ill,” but then that criminal could make a recovery and live decades after release.

The bill was brought forward because there’s an ongoing question about “if the Prisoner Review Board is granting enough hearings to the incarcerated who petition for medical release.”

“There’s been some reports in the media about how petitions have been handled by the PRB,” said Guzzardi. “It’s my view there are individuals who are perhaps eligible for release under this act who haven’t been able to take advantage of it yet.”

Guzzardi said the only way that incarcerated people who are terminally ill or medically disabled can take advantage of the 2021 law is to make sure the PRB hearings are working correctly. McClure said the people who go before the PRB are people who have done horrific things and have extremely long sentences.

“The fact that this representative wants as many of them to be released as possible is not just shocking, but it is a slap in the face of every victim in our state,” McClure said.

McClure said there’s already options for those who are terminally ill or medically disabled who want to be released. McClure explained the governor can address those issues with a pardon.

“Guzzardi should be more focused on the victims rather than the criminals of this state,” McClure said.

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savannah, voted “yes” and the majority of 40 House Republicans voted “no.” The measure is now in the Senate and awaits further action.