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What the media is missing about the governor’s clemencies

Friday, Apr 24, 2020

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

32 Comments
  1. - Demoralized - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    Do these hysterical people make the same arguments when people are released from prison after completing their sentence?


  2. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    ===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.===

    Meh. Can’t score any political points suggesting the governor’s actions are nefarious by sticking to the facts.


  3. - @misterjayem - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    “Do these hysterical people make the same arguments when people are released from prison after completing their sentence?”

    Alas, they often do.

    – MrJM


  4. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    I don’t believe that the PRB has a history of being overly generous with its recommendations for


  5. - Shawn TD - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    Rich. I’ve been wanting to say something for a few days, but knew at some point the facts would surface in a news story. Thank you highlighting the PRB and honestly, their overwhelming role in the release of offenders.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:39 am:

    === First, the governor has sole authority over clemencies granted to him by the Illinois Constitution.===

    “That pesky constitution strikes again”

    - Trumpkin phonies.

    It’s difficult to think that just the thought to “process” is being usurped because mouth breathers in a pandemic need to make a normal policy thought a conspiracy to deny… sumptin’.

    Mr. Plummer had generally done better than those down his way, this reeks of folks looking for relevancy more than worrying about safety.


  7. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    Yes the Governor has authority to commute any sentence he wants to commute. But nobody has the right to disagree with those commutations? Oh. If Jackson or another re-offends, Cabello or someone else doesn’t have the right to inform the victims why the offender is on the street? Oh.


  8. - Stuff Happens - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:49 am:

    I enjoyed reading this. It’s nice to see someone able to do due diligence.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    === But nobody has the right to disagree with those commutations?===

    (Sigh)

    Disagree? Sure, anyone can disagree.

    Utter ignorance to the constitution and wanting an answer?

    No, that’s those grandstanding to seem relevant.


  10. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    Clemency and pandemic modeling are not transparent In this state.

    “No governor is obligated to talk to anyone, including Republican state legislators”

    “ Will you release the raw data for these models, when and where can we access it?..I just want to be clear with everybody, we don’t own these models, these models belong to the experts who you’ve heard from and the others who’ve been part of our consultative group. And so I would suggest, I will just remind everybody that they have spoken with the press before,”


  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:04 pm:

    Welp… well…

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.


  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:08 pm:

    ===But nobody has the right to disagree with those commutations?===

    Don’t argue like a child. People can say whatever they want. And I am free to point out when their facts are wrong.


  13. - lakeside - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:14 pm:

    ===But nobody has the right to disagree with those commutations?===

    When it’s not “nobody” but, instead, the people we have elected to create laws, you’d hope they have even a small understanding of the processes and policies that are involved in their work. And when they use that ignorance, feigned or otherwise, to make bad faith arguments, it’s good and fine to call them out.


  14. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:27 pm:

    “When it’s not “nobody” but, instead, the people we have elected to create laws, you’d hope they have even a small understanding of the processes and policies that are involved in their work. And when they use that ignorance, feigned or otherwise, to make bad faith arguments, it’s good and fine to call them out.”

    It isn’t a bad faith argument to disagree with the Governor’s commutation of a murderer.


  15. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:29 pm:

    “And I am free to point out when their facts are wrong”

    Yes that is the beauty of America. Thank you for confirming that. If you want to criticize someone for criticizing the Governor for freeing a murderer, no one can stop you.


  16. - Annonin - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:30 pm:

    CaptFax you should be ashamed for makin’ Daddy’s Little Boy and the rest of the clown look so stupid and unprepared. How can they hold themselves as the statewide lynchmob coordinators when you have done this? Next thing i bet you will link GomerBailey & Counsel presser for your afternoon laugh fest.


  17. - Amalia - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:35 pm:

    other states have let out many more prisoners. perhaps they have different populations. remember the studies that showed that to deeply decrease the prison population in this country that offenders against persons would have to be released? it is a myth that prisons are filled with people who are just there for drug use. he has to release some of them/should release to relieve the space issue in this dangerous virus time. census by prison without names, but with offense in for and past convictions would tell us what he has to review.


  18. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:37 pm:

    Michael Westen, don’t you wish the Madison County State’s Attorney did their job? A governor can only make as good of a decision as the information he has.


  19. - Jibba - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:39 pm:

    ===pandemic modeling are not transparent===

    The modeling is as transparent as it needs to be, given that you will not understand it unless you are a modeler. You have the right to see the model output, which was given yesterday, and have an expert tell you what it means and how it will be used in making policy. If want more, you are just likely looking to find points to argue about, and there are plenty in any numerical model.


  20. - Demoralized - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:39 pm:

    ==It isn’t a bad faith argument to disagree with the Governor’s commutation of a murderer.==

    It is if you are ignoring the facts while doing it. Cabello is just angry. Fine. I think the way he’s going about it is juvenile, but whatever. However, this suggestion that the Governor should be consulting people is dishonest.


  21. - Mjolnir - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:46 pm:

    This is some bizarre version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Where the outrage is made up and the facts don’t matter…


  22. - August - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    ===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.===

    Based on what I have read, the Mayor of Bethalto prosecuted the case and was sworn into his current office in 2013. This would mean that he would not have been contacted or given the opportunity to speak up because he was no longer working in the local prosecutor’s office. As far as the state rep and senator, where does it say that they were contacted and told of this hearing? No one is questioning whether the governor has the right to do this. The governor should explain himself when kids are killed and he lets the killers walk free. It is completely appropriate to voice outrage and ask why. He certainly voiced outrage and demanded more transparency over Trump’s decision to reduce Blago’s sentence. It’s pretty funny that some feel that Pritzker should not face outrage over reducing sentences of people that have done far worse.


  23. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:54 pm:

    “Michael Westen, don’t you wish the Madison County State’s Attorney did their job?”

    I do. In the absence of that, I’m still not against someone questioning why a Governor frees a murderer to roam the street, even if he has the unqualified right to do so.


  24. - PJ - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    Illinois Republicans are still suffering a Rauner hangover. Absolutely no one needs the super-minority’s party’s approval to do anything. The people of Illinois made exceptionally clear in 2018 that they are tired of action in Illinois being held back by the need to consult with Durkin and friends.


  25. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 12:58 pm:

    (Sigh)

    === “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.”===

    Not one of those things is required.

    Not one.

    This isn’t questioning the decision, this is questioning the process, which is clear.


  26. - NuancedApproach - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 1:26 pm:

    I feel confident that the PRB, Gov’s team, and DOC vetted this person pretty well. No one wants to have a Willie Horton on their record.

    Can we at least give the person being release the opportunity to prove they have been rehabilitated before we make a judgement?


  27. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 1:29 pm:

    “This isn’t questioning the decision, this is questioning the process, which is clear.”

    (Sigh) It’s questioning both which is still allowed at least for awhile. Yes yes the Governor could allow every single murderer to walk free if he wanted to. He has the unqualified right to do so. Nobody disputes that. If he did, we’d be allowed to ask questions about the process upon which he made his decision. That’s how we roll in America. Does he have to answer those questions? No. But they can still be asked.


  28. - Oldtimer - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 1:30 pm:

    OW @12:04,
    I had the same line used against me once by the late Rep Mary Lou Cowlishaw. She could be a little acerbic 4 hours into a committee hearing.


  29. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 1:36 pm:

    === questioning both===

    Then questioning the power to do so is ignorant. Full stop.

    === He has the unqualified right to do so. Nobody disputes that. If he did, we’d be allowed to ask questions about the process upon which he made his decision.===

    Nope. You *can*, but complaining those need to be consulted, nope, that’s pretty ignorant.

    If Mr. Plummer is truly that ignorant to process, maybe being in the senate is too much for him.


  30. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 1:37 pm:

    === which is still allowed at least for awhile.===

    This isn’t Facebook, that drivel is sad commentary to your point.

    Do better.


  31. - gfalkes - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 2:17 pm:

    @michael weston, the first part of the clemency process is as open as permissible under the circumstances. The victims and the prosecuting agency are notified directly, and given the opportunity to comment/object. The general public is alerted when the schedule of public hearings is posted. This is no different than when court proceedings are published in the newspapers, which no one reads, or notices are posted on properties subject to zoning changes, which go unnoticed. Please complain about the judgement of the Governor, without having read or observed anything about the case or this defendant’s subsequent rehabilitation. Please complain about the transparency of this public hearing process and tell me how you’d create a better system. Personally notify the 177 members of the GA? public service announcements broadcast prior to the public hearing. personally addressed mail sent to the residents within so many feet of the location where the crime occurred? Instead of an ill-informed critique, offer a well reasoned solution. Or simply go scream at the sign post. BTW, I hate every single clemency based on anything other than actual innocence, so don’t even try to @ me for being soft on criminals, especially child killers. Unless you’re secretly Electric Ed Petka, I guarantee I’ve done more to hold violent offenders accountable in my lifetime than you. Be constructive or go away.


  32. - Michael Westen - Friday, Apr 24, 20 @ 4:17 pm:

    “Please complain about the judgement of the Governor, without having read or observed anything about the case or this defendant’s subsequent rehabilitation.”

    That’s exactly what these elected officials are doing. Apparently you and others don’t believe they should or are even allowed to do so. I simply disagree. When murderers are released into our communities, we’re allowed to question the reasoning for doing so. If you don’t think we are, we’ll just have to disagree.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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