Legislation to release certain older inmates from state prison early is once again moving through the Illinois General Assembly.
Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, proposed a bill that would make long-time prisoners who are older than 50 and have served more than 25 years eligible to be considered for early release.
The legislation would allow prison administrators to interview inmates before appearing before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
Supporters said the plan would reduce overcrowding in the state’s prison system and save money because elderly prisoners cost more money to house.
It is estimated 800 state inmates would be qualified to be considered for the program, up from about 32 in the late 1980s.
The measure advanced to the full House this week from a 4-3 vote by the House Restorative Justice Committee, but opponents suggested the legislation is not sensitive to victims and would not have any appreciable effect on the overcrowded prison system.
Opponents also object to the idea of allowing murderers to walk free just because they were able to live long enough to qualify for the program.
The bill, HB 3668, provides a committed person who is at least 50 and who has served at least 25 consecutive years of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility may petition the Prisoner Review Board for participation in the Elderly Rehabilitated Prisoner Sentence Modification Program.
In part, it reads: “If the Board determines that a committed person is eligible for participation in the Program and that the committed person should participate in the Program, the Board shall set the conditions for the committed person’s release from prison before the expiration of his or her sentence.”
The proposed measure could affect prisoners such as Chester Otto Weger — infamously known as the “Starved Rock Killer.” Currently, he is the longest-serving inmate in the state’s prison system.
Weger, 75, was sentenced to life in prison following his 1961 conviction in the bludgeoning murder of a female hiker at the state park during a break from his dishwashing job at the lodge.
Three Riverside friends — Lillian Oetting, 50, Mildred Lindquist, 50, and Frances Murphy, 47, were killed in St. Louis Canyon on March 14, 1960. Weger was found guilty for just the killing of Oetting and never was returned for the trial in the other two deaths.
Last fall, following a parole hearing at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center and a hearing in Springfield, the Prisoner Review Board denied Weger release by a single vote.
It was his 18th failed attempt in seeking parole.
La Salle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne is opposed to the early release legislation and told The Times Friday he believes the bill would usurp the legal and just verdicts of juries and the courts.
“Speaking for the victims, we should not be doing this kind of release,” Towne said. “We all know that the state is in financial turmoil, but I do not think this is the place to save money.”
via Proposed bill would release elderly state prisoners early – The Times: Local.