Illinois Public Media News
Governor Pat Quinn says a secret policy change that allowed some well-behaved criminals to leave prison after fewer than three weeks behind bars was a mistake. But he says given the state's budget woes, Illinois' prison system has been forced to economize.
The governor called the accelerated early release of inmates ... some of whom were violent offenders ... "bad judgment." And Quinn says he never gave Corrections Director Michael Randle the authority to do it.
Yet Quinn also seemed to downplay the gravity of the situation. He says each of the 1700 inmates released early on meritorious good time would have been out of prison by the end of January anyway.
"We should not in any way, I think, miss the point that there are literally thousands of people coming into our prison system for a very short period of time", said Quinn.
Quinn says that because the state corrections budget was slashed, Randle was put in the challenging position of finding savings. The governor says Randle will keep his job as director, but he has terminated the program. His opponent in the Democratic primary race for governor, Comptroller Dan Hynes, calls Quinn's acknowledgment "inadequate" and "lame.
Danville Police are investigating the armed robbery of the First Savings Bank on West Williams yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.
Police answering an alarm at the bank were told by employees that two masked men displayed a handgun and fled the bank on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. No one was injured in the holdup.
The two suspects are described as black males in their late teens or early 20s, five-foot-nine to five-foot-ten in height with slim builds. Both wore hooded sweatshirts and dark pants with dark colored cloth over their faces.
If you have information about the robbery, call Danville Police at 431-2250 or make your contact anonymous through Vermilion County Crimestoppers at 446-TIPS.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging Rockford residents to push for a federal investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed man inside a church-run day care.
At a news conference at the day care center on Sunday, Jackson criticized a grand jury for ruling last week that the shooting was justified.
He urged residents to push for an outcome that's "just and fair.''
The Aug. 24 killing of 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore at the church-run facility in Rockford has heightened racial tensions in the community. The two officers are white and Barmore was black.
Witnesses say Barmore surrendered. But police have said Barmore tried to attack the officers.
Barmore's father, Anthony Stevens, says the grand jury decision made for the worst Christmas he's ever had.
The Logan County home where five members of a family were found dead earlier this year will remain a crime scene until defense investigators can examine the property.
30-year-old Christopher Harris and his 22-year-old brother Jason Harris have been charged with numerous counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children in September. A fourth child at the home in Beason suffered critical injuries but survived.
The Harrises, of Armington, are jailed without bond.
In court this week, prosecutors agreed to preserve the Gee home until defense attorneys complete their work.
Illinois Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry says crime scene tape will remain around the property and windows will stay boarded.
Federal officials tried Tuesday to allay fears that moving terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois could make the state a terrorist target.
The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin, told a legislative panel at a public hearing in Sterling that Thomson would be the most secure of all federal prisons in the country.
Other testimony on the plan to bring terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center appeared evenly split between supporters and critics.
Several conservative opponents of the plan were among the last to testify at a high school auditorium near the Thomson Correctional Center as the hearing ran late into the night Tuesday.
Denise Cattoni of the Illinois TEA Party organization told the panel that Americans aren't being told enough about the implications of any such transfer.
Cattoni said they merely woke up one morning and were told "Gitmo was moving to Illinois.''
But a series of leaders from communities in and near Thomson told the panel their constituents are clamoring for the kind of economic boost a fully open Thomson prison would provide.
Governor Pat Quinn plans to sell Thomson to the federal government to house detainees and for a maximum-security federal prison, and the public hearing probably will not change that. The 12-member Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability could vote on a recommendation to sell Thomson, but Quinn does not have to follow the recommendation.
The hearing adjourned at 9 p.m., and the commission said it would not vote on the proposal before Jan. 14.
Champaign police say a gambling operation broken up by officers last week had been going on for nearly four months.
Deputy Chief John Murphy says the two Champaign men arrested Thursday, December 17th on charges of Gambling and Keeping a Gambling Place had rented out a storage unit in the 600 block of Ashford Court, furnishing it with heating and air conditioning, gaming equipment and selling food. And Murphy says 43-year old Jeffrey Wingo and 30-year old Brandyn Odell were charging $50 admission for players when police executed a search warrant that evening. Those two men and 18 others were issued notices to appear in court for Gambling-Betting or Wagering. And Murphy says the large amounts of potential winnings for players brought in many from outside the area. "Some of them had addresses as far away as Wilmette and Bloomington, and so there were people that were making a concerted effort to participate in the games," says Murphy. "They had dry erase boards up that had the dollar equivalent for each color chip, and based on what we saw there, it was certainly possible for thousands of dollars to end up on the table at any one time."
Murphy says anywhere from 20 to 50 people would show up the alleged poker games on a given night. He says Champaign Police were tipped off by a family member of someone who frequently joined the games. Wingo and Odell are expected to make their first court appearances next month.
Opponents and supporters of a plan to move up to 100 alleged terrorists to Illinois from Guantanamo Bay are preparing to address the first state legislative hearing on the issue.
Around 50 people are scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing before the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
They include labor union officials who say selling the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government to house detainees will create hundreds of jobs.
Opponents scheduled to speak include conservative activist Beverly Perlson. She says U.S. Naval detention center in Cuba has worked well and that there's no good reason to bring prisoners to the small northwestern Illinois community.
The hearing is at a high school auditorium in Sterling, which is southeast of Thomson.
Governor Pat Quinn admits to knowing about a Department of Corrections program that released violent criminals who'd spent little time in prison. But he says he's ordered a "top to bottom" review to ensure public safety.
Quinn suspended the program over the weekend after reading an Associated Press article. It detailed how about 850 inmates ... some repeat drunk drivers, others serving sentences for weapons or battery violations ... were released after serving only weeks behind bars.
They got out for earning good behavior credits. Their speedy release was made possible because the Corrections Department had dropped a standing policy that required all inmates serve at least 61 days.
Quinn says he knew about Corrections Director Michael Randle's plan. He says so did others. Quinn says it wasn't a secret.
"Now, the execution, implementation of the plan, I've suspended the plan, because I want to review it and make sure it's working the way it should work for public safety", said Quinn.
Quinn wouldn't say if he knew violent offenders would be included.
Illinois' prison system began releasing prisoners early to save money. Quinn says the system is expensive, and there has to be a balance between safety, and saving money.
The governor says he'll talk more about the issue "very soon." His Democratic challenger for the governor's seat, Comptroller Dan Hynes, says the whole affair demonstrates Quinn's poor leadership.
No one was hurt, but a bank robbery in the heart of Monticello Wednesday caused a stir and led to a soft lockdown for school students.
Administrators decided to keep students inside the buildings for the rest of the school day after a man carrying a semi-automatic pistol held up the First State Bank on the town square. Police Chief John Miller says bank robberies are rare-to-non-existent in his town.
"I talked to a bank employee who's been there for over 44 years, and they don't ever recall the bank being robbed", says Miller. "And someone mentioned that they thought that 65 or so years ago, someone had robbed a bank here in Monticello, but it's been a long time."
Miller describes the suspect as a heavy set white male, about five-feet-nine with olive khaki pants and a large blue hooded sweatshirt, wearing a black covering over his face. No one has been arrested yet. Miller won't say how much money the man got away with when he ran from the bank.
The special agent in charge of the Springfield office of the FBI says its investigation into the October fatal police shooting in Champaign could take several weeks - and then it will take more time for federal officials to deliberate over it.
The FBI is looking into the shooting death of Kiwane Carrington at the request of Champaign police. Supervisory special agent Marshall Stone says the scope of their investigation will be different than the state police-led probe that led to no criminal charges against the officers involved.
"In these types of situations, whether we're talking about police-action shootings or color-of-law cases such as excessive use of force based upon the authority we have as law enforcement officers, those tend to fall under the civil rights statutes," said Stone.
Stone says the final decision on any wrongdoing will be left to the Department of Justice in Washington, which will receive the investigation once the FBI office is finished. He says that investigation may involve their own interviews or it could rely on the state police report.
Carrington was shot while police responded to a reported break-in at a Vine Street house. His family has filed a civil suit against police and officer Daniel Norbits, who fired the fatal shot.
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