* From a press release…
More than two years after missing a statutory deadline to implement a comprehensive risk assessment of state prisoners, a lawsuit has been filed seeking a court order directing Illinois prison officials to assess and consider paroling the longest serving prisoners.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks to force the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (IPRB) and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to abide by the Illinois Crime Reduction Act, which took effect in 2010 and gave those state agencies three years to prepare for and begin using a standardized risk assessment tool no later than January 2013.
The class action suit was filed on behalf of all still-incarcerated prisoners sentenced for crimes committed before 1978 when Illinois switched from a system of indeterminate sentences to sentences with a fixed length of time. More than 170 men are serving indeterminate sentences and appear periodically before the IPRB to request parole.
Harrison Chancy, the lead plaintiff in the case, is serving an indeterminate sentence for a 1977 murder, armed robbery, armed violence and burglary in Lemont. Chancy, who maintains he is innocent, was 19 at the time of the crimes. He has been incarcerated for 37 years.
Chancy has used his time in prison productively, taking courses to prepare for success after release, and he has a positive behavior record and gone several years without receiving a single disciplinary ticket. Chancy’s IDOC work supervisor, who is a former Navy SEAL and a prison shift commander, wrote a letter of support to IPRB – the first time in his 25-year IDOC career that he had written in support of an inmate’s parole.
Without benefit of a risk assessment, the IPRB voted to deny Chancy’s parole applications for parole in 2013 and 2014. At the latest hearing, without pointing to any specific rationale and in a departure from the previous year’s hearing, the IPRB ordered that Chancy not be considered again for parole until 2017.
The lawsuit is here.