AgingDyingInPrison19-e1281165627596Give elderly chance at parole

A bill is being considered by the Legislature, HB 3668, that would permit elderly prisoners to apply for parole.

People may wonder who are these elderly people?

Miss P. is 63 years of age. She is confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk but a few steps alone. She has COPD, congestive heart failure. Miss P. is a first-time offender, very remorseful. She has served 26 years with a life without parole sentence having been found guilty of murder but insane.

Miss R. is 58 years of age. She uses a walker and has a spinal condition along with numerous other health issues. Miss R once dreamed of being a nun and in prison has completed many Bible study courses.

Miss R. is a first-time offender who has served 18 years. Miss R is serving a life without possibility of parole sentence.

Miss E. recently was told one kidney had failed and the other is deteriorating fast. She has had five major surgeries.

Miss E. is 66 years of age and served 25 years. She is an accomplished pianist and artist whose paintings adorn walls in Logan.

Here are statements from other prisoners:

I am a 58-year-old man and 28 years into a life sentence. When I was high on PCP, I broke into a house and beat a woman to death. My first offense. The police had no idea who committed this crime, but I felt so guilty I turned myself in. I am not bitter. I did this to myself. I have taken every opportunity in prison to better myself.

I am 59 and have an innocence claim. I have been in prison for 28 years. I am a very sick man. I have hereditary diabetes and am slowing dying here.

I was 19 and admitted to a horrible crime committed during a botched robbery while high on PCP. I take full responsibility for my life and don’t blame anyone. I have gone from reading at a fourth-grade level to getting a bachelor’s degree and will be an ordained minister shortly. I am 52 years old and served 23 years.

I am a 65-year-old man. I have hypertension, a broken clavicle, enlarged prostate, hepatitis C and because of inadequate medical care am slowly dying in prison. I have participated in many programs and written several books.

Currently Illinois’ prison population is at 130 percent of capacity. Allowing some elderly to be paroled will reduce expenditures by about $70,000 annually for each person. It is estimated about 900 elderly would be eligible for parole if this bill becomes law. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, as each will have to demonstrate they are reformed and no longer a threat to anyone.

Bill Ryan, Westchester

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