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Gov. J.B. Pritzker continues clashing with Illinois Senate over parole board

Dan Petrella and Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate and Gov. J.B. Pritzker remain divided over changes to the state’s embattled parole board, even as the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor move toward a belated state budget deal.

Over opposition from the governor’s office, Senate Democrats, joined by their Republican colleagues, voted without opposition late Sunday to codify a series of changes to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, a body that has been a source of long-running bipartisan tension between the legislative chamber and the Pritzker administration.

The discord, which began two years ago when the Senate rejected some of Pritzker’s appointments to the board, most recently flared earlier this spring after the panel released 37-year-old parolee Crosetti Brand. After his release, he was charged with killing 11-year-old Jayden Perkins and attacking the child’s mother, with whom he once had a relationship.

The attack occurred March 13 at the woman’s residence on Chicago’s North Side, a day after Brand was released from state custody.

Days after the attack, the board’s chairman, Donald Shelton, and board member LeAnn Miller, who drafted the order authorizing Brand’s release, resigned.

“We here in the Senate have wrestled for several years with the Prisoner Review Board and some of the consequences of decisions made there,” Senate President Don Harmon said while explaining the proposal on the Senate floor ahead of Sunday’s vote.

 

While the Oak Park Democrat said the “recent tragedy” of Jayden’s death had “spurred the House” to pass a measure seeking changes to the board, the Senate modified it to include several provisions Pritzker opposes.

The Senate proposal, which must return to the House for approval before being sent to the governor’s desk, would, among other provisions, require the panel to publish on its website information for victims about how to submit victim-impact statements for the board to consider in its deliberations. This would apply to victims of domestic violence who’ve filed orders of protection against their abusers, who may be considered by the board for early release.

The measure would create more robust requirements to notify victims before hearings and when prisoners are released, and it would require board members to go through special training related to domestic violence issues.

Among the main points of contention from Pritzker, there’s also a provision that would require the board to make certain open hearings available to the public via live broadcast on the board’s website, where recordings of the hearings would have to remain available for at least 18 months.

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