* OK, let’s revisit this blowup over the release of Edjuan Payne, who allegedly murdered a Peoria woman this month several weeks after he was let out of prison.
As you already know, Payne was initially released last October under the controversial “MGT Push” program. He was put back in prison by parole agents in January after he violated his terms of release, including failing an alcohol test and living with his mother, who was not on the approved list. The Prisoner Review Board sent him back to prison for 69 days. He got out in March and allegedly committed the murder in May.
The governor and the Department of Corrections have blamed the Prisoner Review Board, claiming that Payne was required to stay in prison until July. The Prisoner Review Board, in its defense, points to a recommendation by the Department of Corrections’ parole agent that Payne serve just two months. The Peoria Journal Star catches us up on the latest back and forth…
[Prisoner Review Board Chairman Jorge Montes] added that the board ultimately relies on parole agents for 99 percent of the decisions they make regarding early release and reiterated that the agent in Payne’s case explicitly recommended a two-month term.
[Department of Corrections spokesperson Sharyn Elman] fundamentally disagreed.
“That’s absolutely not true,” she said. “In many cases, they do not follow what the parole agent and (Department of Corrections) says - and they’re not required to.”
* Ms. Elman actually went much further than that in a statement she wrote for this blog last night. I’ve edited it slightly for style, but here is Elman’s statement…
The Prisoner Review Board bears the responsibility for the release of this inmate. The Department of Corrections did all that it could to make sure that this offender was in custody for as long as possible.
In fact, as a result of the Department of Corrections’ intensive compliance program, this offender was returned to custody. Although the PRB claims that DOC “recommended” that the offender be released after two months, there is no evidence in the record of the PRB’s decision that they considered this—or any other—information from the inmate’s parole violation report. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the PRB inexplicably disregarded significant information from DOC regarding this offender. For example, the PRB violation order finds that Payne violated only one of his parole conditions. According to DOC and to the PRB’s own administrative hearing officer, there was probable cause to find that Payne had three violations.
There are a variety of other discrepancies between the parole violation report and the PRB’s order that illustrate that the PRB, rather than relying on DOC “recommendations”, actually ignored significant and relevant facts from the parole violation report:
* The parole violation report notes that the offender had a violent history; the PRB’s order ignores that fact;
* The parole violation report recommends substance abuse counseling, if the PRB made a finding of guilt; the PRB order ignores that fact.
Moreover, it is disingenuous and inaccurate to characterize statements from a parole agent to a parole supervisor in the context of a parole violation report—an internal document—as official DOC “recommendations” to outside bodies like the Prisoner Review Board. In fact, the PRB’s own administrative rules suggest that internal reports from parole agents regarding the length of incarceration to supervisors are NOT admissible before the PRB as evidence—the administrative code clearly prohibits this. See Illinois Administrative Code Section 1610.40.
Even if the agent’s statement was a “recommendation” that was admissible before the PRB, the PRB was not legally authorized to implement the recommendation. Under the Illinois Administrative Code, Section 1610.160, the PRB has limited and specific choices in resolving parole violation cases after a finding of guilt. The Board may do one of three things for adult parole violators:
* Release the offender from custody to parole, with or without special condition;
* Parole the offender to a halfway house;
* Keep the inmate in custody for the remainder of the inmate’s period of mandatory supervised release, which would have had him behind bars until July 22, 2010.
The Board does not have the authority to craft a mix-and-match remedy. As a result, the idea that the PRB’s decision to release the inmate after 69 days in custody was prompted by a “recommendation” from DOC is simply false: the applicable regulations do not authorize that action.
In fact, PRB made the decision, unilaterally, to release this offender from custody, without any special conditions of any kind.
* Let’s take a look at some of Elman’s claims. For instance, Elman characterizes the parole agent’s report as “an internal document.” That appears to be poppycock. The parole agent’s report is what the Prisoner Review Board gets when it is handed the case. It is no “internal document” at all.
* Elman says that the administrative code “clearly prohibits” the use of the parole agent’s recommendations in the Prisoner Review Board’s decision. She cites Section 1610.40 of the code. Here it is…
Evidence. The Board is not bound by strict rules of evidence in the conduct of a parole release hearing and will consider all evidence presented, so long as the evidence is not cumulative, repetitive or inherently unreliable (as, for example, would be testimonials of Department of Corrections employees who are not authorized to make parole recommendations) and so long as it has some relevance to the parole release decision, as described in Section 1610.50.
The prohibition applies only to DoC employees who aren’t authorized to make parole recommendations. But the Department of Corrections’ Parole Violation Report form specifically asks the parole agent for a “Recommended time to be served.” So, Elman’s explanation falls flat.
* Elman claims the Prisoner Review Board can only parole or send the person back to prison for the full time and has no authority “to craft a mix-and-match remedy.” Absolutely untrue, says the PRB, pointing to this state statute…
(730 ILCS 5/3‑3‑10) (from Ch. 38, par. 1003‑3‑10)
Sec. 3‑3‑10. Eligibility after Revocation; Release under Supervision.
(a) A person whose parole or mandatory supervised release has been revoked may be reparoled or rereleased by the Board at any time to the full parole or mandatory supervised release term under Section 3‑3‑8, except that the time which the person shall remain subject to the Board shall not exceed (1) the imposed maximum term of imprisonment or confinement and the parole term for those sentenced under the law in effect prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1977 or (2) the term of imprisonment imposed by the court and the mandatory supervised release term for those sentenced under the law in effect on and after such effective date.
(b) If the Board sets no earlier release date…
The PRB certainly appears to have the right to set an “earlier release date” under state law.
* This is a fight to the death. No question. Losing this distasteful PR battle means Mike Randle, the director of DoC, could lose his job and Pat Quinn could lose the election. The DoC appears to be well aware of this fact and is fighting back on all fronts. The more they can throw at reporters, the more this becomes a “he said/she said” story with no blame assigned. And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do here.
The Prisoner Review Board has obviously been caught off guard by the attacks leveled at it by the governor and the DoC. They don’t appear to be itching for a political fight, but they are willing to defend themselves. The PRB chairman had this to say to the Peoria paper yesterday….
“The buck stops here. The board takes its part of the responsibility,” Montes said.
But Chairman Montes also indicated that the Department of Corrections ought to stand up and accept its portion of the blame. I seriously doubt that the department will ever do that. At least, not until there’s a change at the top, whether that “top” is the director or the governor, or both.
Since so many of DoC’s defenses and attacks have been successfully refuted, it seems clear to me who wins this one. We can argue all day whether the PRB should’ve let Payne out of prison before July, considering his 1988 conviction for murder. But there can be no argument at all that the Department of Corrections also needs to shoulder its own responsibility here and must immediately cease its unseemly buck-passing.