* This is a story about reporters more interested in collecting incendiary quotes than looking at the context or the actual facts.
Let’s first get some background from a Center Square article on the governor’s recent commutations…
“If any of these folks re-offend and hurt somebody else, I will hold J.B. Pritzker personally responsible and I will make it my mission in life to ensure that the family members know that it was J.B. Pritzker that caused them this harm as well,” Cabello said. […]
Some of those commuted include Kwayera Jackson, a former football standout in Southern Illinois, who was convicted of murder in the death of his infant son. Supporters of Jackson have petitioned for his release, saying Jackson killed his son attempting to perform “strengthening exercises” on the 5-month-old boy. The document shows Jackson was released on April 10.
* Alton Telegraph…
“It’s very disturbing,” said Bethalto Mayor Alan Winslow, who was the lead investigator in the case. Jackson was convicted in the 1998 killing and sentenced in 2000. Under truth-in-sentencing laws, he was to serve all 40 years.
“He showed no remorse,” Winslow said. He said Jackson, now 40, beat the child to death then told two different false stories to cover his acts.
* The Bethalto mayor went on to complain to a local radio station…
I think that whoever represented the government or the governor in making this decision did not do any due diligence on this case. I think there was a lot of political issue to this. And I think it’s wrong, and quite honestly, I hope to see the system change.
* Back to the Telegraph…
Illinois Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) said Friday that state Senate Republicans could get behind granting temporary furloughs for prisoners with non-violent crimes who are also at risk for health complications — within a transparent system involving the say of law enforcement.
“This not the case of a non-violent offense,” he said of Jackson’s release.
“The governor is not answering questions, and is not being open to law enforcement, or the judiciary, or the media, or the public at-large,” Plummer added.
“The transparency is completely non-existent,” he said. “I have talked to prosecutors, and I have talked to law enforcement officials who have been involved in multiple of these cases. None of them have heard anything from the governor’s office or the governor.”
First, the governor has sole authority over clemencies granted to him by the Illinois Constitution. No governor is obligated to talk to anyone, including Republican state legislators. And, as you’ll see in a moment, local law enforcement officials had a chance to speak up on this particular case and missed it.
* Gov. Pritzker has said that the majority of the prisoner releases are handled by the Illinois Department of Corrections under statutory guidelines which were modified by an executive order. All of his clemencies, he said, are run through the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. He has reportedly granted 17 clemency petitions since March 11.
So, I called PRB Chairman Craig Findley, who has served on the PRB since 2001. He did a 15-month stint as chairman when he was first appointed and was then reappointed chairman in 2015 by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Findley told me that the clemency process has always been confidential. “We don’t explain them and the governor has no obligation to explain them,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know of a single governor who has talked publicly about individual commutations (except maybe when George Ryan cleared out death row). And he very politely (the man has always been a gentleman) refused to answer questions about individual cases.
* I also reached out to the governor’s office. Here’s Jordan Abudayyeh..
There is a clear process that has been used for decades when governors exercise their clemency powers. The Prisoner Review Board makes confidential recommendations to the governor who reviews clemency petitions and takes action. The Governor is a strong believer in criminal justice reform and that means carefully and thoughtfully considering petitions for clemency from those who have demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation while serving their sentence. The Governor takes the PRB’s recommendations to heart as he weighs these decisions.
She also added this…
Mr. Jackson’s petition was considered by the PRB in July 2019, and provided an opportunity for public comment and for the Madison County State’s Attorney to submit a response, which it did not do. [Emphasis added.]
In other words, this clemency process appears to have started about a year ago and nobody, including Bethalto’s mayor, Sen. Plummer and Rep. Cabello, apparently spoke up.