State lawmaker questions Pritzker’s order for prisoner furloughs during pandemic

(The Center Square) – A state lawmaker is looking for answers following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order allowing prisoner furloughs.

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, is critical of the lack of details surrounding the order, which allows prisoners who meet certain criteria to be released in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Several of the representatives are demanding some answers from the Pritzker administration,” Cabello said. “Who does this really apply to? It’s kind of scary right now because technically they’re saying if you’re elderly or medically vulnerable, technically you can be in for murder and both those apply to you.”

Cabello says that just the start of what he’s looking to find out. He says it’s unclear who will be in charge of determining which prisoners officially meet the criteria and what the expectations will be for their behavior after release.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to the Department of Corrections and the Pritzker administration, they don’t believe that they need to answer any of the questions,” Cabello said. “We’ve demanded questions be answered on several different issues. And they pretty much just tell us, ‘We know best. Don’t worry. We’re not going to answer your questions.’ ”

Another question he’s looking to clarify is who will be keeping track of those prisoners who have been furloughed.

“If they tell us that parole officers will keep an eye on them, all you have to do is look at the caseload that the officers already have and it’s not possible,” Cabello said. “They are so overworked. Now you are putting more burden on them.”

Cabello says lawmakers in Springfield often talk about criminal justice reforms, but should consider all parties involved in a criminal case when making decisions like this. “The one thing that they never remember are the victims of crime, especially violent crime,” Cabello said. “And if we’re going to let some of these folks out that have committed violent crimes, the victims of those crimes, in my opinion, will be victimized twice.”

He said the action from the governor fits a pattern since the start of the coronavirus crisis of freezing out other elected lawmakers when making decisions.

“I would give him an ‘F.’ Right now, the governor is not including the General Assembly,” Cabello said. “Right now the governor is acting like a dictator.”

Pritzker’s action comes as dozens of inmates and corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Two inmates at Stateville Correctional Center have died of complications from the virus.

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