Just ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board (PRB) voted to release two convicted murderers, prompting renewed calls from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin to reform the board.
“Governor Pritzker needs to stop appointing PRB members that disregard the rights of victims. His record on public safety has made Illinois a consequence-free state for criminals,” said Durkin.
On Thursday, May 26, the PRB voted to parole 65-year-old Richard West, who was convicted of killing his father with a shotgun. Since his imprisonment for the crime, the PRB has repeatedly denied parole. West was among a group of inmates who took four guards hostage at Stateville Correctional Center in 1983. His disciplinary record in prison includes possession of illegal weapons, starting fires, and assaulting a correctional officer. The board also granted parole to 40-year-old Patrick Inocencio, who was convicted of killing a gang rival and wounding three others at an Aurora hotel in 1999. Last year, Pritzker granted Inocencio a commutation, paving the way for him to seek parole for his murder conviction. His parole was opposed by the Kane County state’s attorney’s office. During Pritzker’s time in office, the PRB has granted parole in roughly one-third of the cases it has heard – a much higher release rate than under previous governors. In January, Durkin introduced a package of victim-focused reforms to the PRB. Durkin’s legislation would increase transparency, ensure that some board members have a law enforcement background, and require a higher threshold vote for individuals convicted of 1st-degree murder. Durkin’s legislation would also require the governor to grant or deny the decisions of the PRB to release an inmate on parole or to revoke their parole or aftercare release in cases of 1st-degree murder. These decisions would be subject to FOIA. “We need a Prisoner Review Board that puts victims ahead of gang members and cold-blooded killers,” said Durkin. “We need to give hope to the forgotten voices in our criminal justice system – the victims of crime – that often feel despair and anguish while seeking justice for the brutal loss of a family member. Their pain is only made worse by the decisions of Governor Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board.”