UC Ingalls Hospice ad 728x90px 102621 1
Senate passes bill providing release path for terminally ill prisoners

Senate passes bill providing release path for terminally ill prisoners

By GRACE BARBIC
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that would give the Prisoner Review Board additional authority to consider early release for prisoners who have petitioned for such action due to medical incapacity or terminal illness.

House Bill 3665, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Connor, D-Lockport, was heavily debated on the Senate floor as Republicans questioned giving more authority to a board that has four members still unconfirmed by the Senate for their appointments made by the governor nearly two years ago.

The PRB, an independent 15-person body appointed by the governor, imposes release conditions for incarcerated individuals being released from prison.

The board has the authority to grant, deny or determine conditions of parole and notify victims and families when an inmate is going to be released from custody. The board also makes recommendations for clemency petitions to the governor.

HB 3665 passed out of the Senate on a 34-17 vote with one voting present, and will need only a signature from the governor to become law.

Dubbed the “Joe Coleman Medical Release Act,” the measure is an initiative of Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago. It permits the PRB to grant or deny a prisoner early release on the basis of medical incapacity or terminal illness, as long as the prisoner is not expected to survive past 18 months.

An inmate can qualify for “medical incapacity,” as written in the bill, if they have a medical condition preventing them from completing more than one daily activity.

The release petitions would be considered by three-member panels of the PRB, with a simple majority of the panel needed to make a decision.

Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, is one of the Senate Republicans who has been outspoken about the four PRB members unconfirmed by the Senate Executive Appointments Committee. She is also a member of that committee.

“I’m really struck by the fact that it’s a three-person board or three-person committee that’s going to make this decision. What if it’s three that we haven’t even had the oversight on yet?” Bryant asked.

“I wish that I could be compassionate in this, but to tell you the truth, my heart goes out to the victims involved in this, because that individual is supposed to be locked up, and we’re gonna let him out on the street if this bill goes through,” she added.

Republican Sens. Steve McClure of Springfield and Jason Plummer of Edwardsville, also members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, had similar lines of questioning.

HB 3665 came to fruition after a man named Joe Coleman became seriously ill while in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Connor said in floor debate.

His family attempted to get him released so that he could live out his final months at home, but Illinois law did not provide for such a process. Coleman died in prison in October 2019 while awaiting clemency.

“There’s no mechanism here in Illinois to permit us to do that under the circumstances in the manner that was required at the time,” Connor said.

Coleman was a Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Connor added. But in 1981, Coleman was charged with the armed robbery of $640 from a Texaco gas station attendant in Murphysboro.

“He served this country. He ran into some problems and ended up in prison,” Connor said. “But when he was facing a terminal illness, all he wanted to do was just get out to say goodbye to his family. That opportunity wasn’t available to him.”

Connor said the bill would provide “reasonable” timeframes and deadlines for the PRB to review cases that involve medical incapacity or terminal illnesses, with input from victims, to assess whether the prisoner in question will have any sort of quality of life improvement if moved out of prison.

If the PRB decides the prisoner meets criteria set forth in the bill, then they can be placed on mandatory supervised release for a period of five years. They will be released from prison as long as it is expected that they won’t survive past 18 months.

Bryant questioned how the 18-month life expectancy will be enforced, noting people can far outlive doctors’ determinations regarding terminal illness.

“I mean if you have pancreatic cancer or something else that’s advanced to a point where you can’t function, does it really make a difference whether you’re within a prison wall or not?” Connor asked. “The bottom line is, I don’t want another Joe Coleman.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Ray Stetz, of La Grange, talks with Township of Lyons Assessor Patrick Hynes (right) about possible property tax exemptions. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Township residents talk taxes with elected officials

By Steve Metsch Marek Gil, like many residents, has questions about his property taxes. Plenty of questions. Gil owns two properties, one in Hickory Hills and one in Justice. Asked if his taxes are too high, Gil replied: “Of course.” Gil, who resides in Justice, was among a group of residents who attended the “Coffee…

Summit village officials and employees stand in front of this year's Christmas Tree. (Photos by Carol McGowan)

Summit lights village Christmas Tree

By Carol McGowan Nearly 50 people were on hand November 18 as the Village of Summit Christmas tree was lit. It was a true sign of the holidays to come, as the crowd gathered by the tree and sang a Christmas carol while sipping on hot chocolate and coffee. It was one of the first…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau announces his intention to run for the 6th Congressional District. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Pekau joins crowded Republican field in 6th Congressional District

By Jeff Vorva In what could be one of the most interesting and heated congressional races in the state in 2022, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau announced Monday he is planning on running in the new 6th Congressional District. He will be running as a Republican and, so far, will battle energy consultant Niki Conforti in the…

Palos Park's Denise Cowan is one of four citizens to object to the village considering video gaming. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Park delays gaming vote again

By Jeff Vorva Someone should send the mayor of Palos Park some Alka-Seltzer. For the third meeting in a row, the Palos Park Village Council did not take any action on bringing gaming machines to town. Mayor John Mahoney and Commissioner Dan Polk are leaning in favor of it to help out the local businesses…

More than 800 runners competed in this year’s Turkey Trot. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Record number of runners come out for 33rd Turkey Trot

By Jeff Vorva Correspondent In 2019, Patrick Foster won the Orland Park Turkey Trot for his first top finish in a competitive race. This year, he was back in the winner’s circle. Foster, an Orland Park native who now lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, finished the 2 1/2-mile race in 14 minutes, 19.9 seconds…

Madelyn and Zachary Rodrigues are proud to hold an annual toy drive benefiting patients at Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago. (Supplied photos)

Teen helps others despite brittle bone disease

Family toy drive benefits Comer Children’s Hospital By Kelly White Early on in her life, Madelyn Rodrigues was diagnosed with Osteogeneis Imperfects, a brittle bone disease that has already resulted in more than 70 bone fractures in her 14 years of life. As a freshman at Illinois Lutheran High School in Crete, Madelyn’s inner strength…

Peggy Zabicki

Thankful for the man who gave us Peanuts

By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place • (773) 504-9327 Did you know that Charles M. Schulz, author of the Peanuts cartoon series, was born on Nov. 26, 1922? I’m thankful and grateful for his creativity, which has endured the test of time. His cartoon movie, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, was first…

Kathy Headley

Marquette Bank wants your opinions

By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 So after eating the big Thanksgiving meal and maybe planning some weekend shopping, if you are a Marquette Bank customer, you might want to take the 2021 Customer Survey before it’s too late. The deadline is Nov. 30.…

Karen Sala

There are many Jewels, but ours shines brightest

By Karen Sala Your correspondent in Gage Park (773) 471-1429 • [email protected] Turkey Day is over, and now it’s time for leftovers! I enjoy leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner more than the original. Even though I went by my son’s, I still made my own turkey and sides. That way I have leftovers. I was watching TV…

Mary Stanek

The best is what’s left over

By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon 3808 W. 57th Place • (773) 284-7394 I hope everyone’s tummies are full of all that Thanksgiving goodness. In the words of actor and comedian Kevin James, “Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants!” Now the best part about Thanksgiving being…

Neighbors

DVN JCs Restoration House Ad
Cook County Sheriff ad.2
Ray Stetz, of La Grange, talks with Township of Lyons Assessor Patrick Hynes (right) about possible property tax exemptions. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Township residents talk taxes with elected officials

By Steve Metsch Marek Gil, like many residents, has questions about his property taxes. Plenty of questions. Gil owns two properties, one in Hickory Hills and one in Justice. Asked if his taxes are too high, Gil replied: “Of course.” Gil, who resides in Justice, was among a group of residents who attended the “Coffee…

Summit village officials and employees stand in front of this year's Christmas Tree. (Photos by Carol McGowan)

Summit lights village Christmas Tree

By Carol McGowan Nearly 50 people were on hand November 18 as the Village of Summit Christmas tree was lit. It was a true sign of the holidays to come, as the crowd gathered by the tree and sang a Christmas carol while sipping on hot chocolate and coffee. It was one of the first…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau announces his intention to run for the 6th Congressional District. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Pekau joins crowded Republican field in 6th Congressional District

By Jeff Vorva In what could be one of the most interesting and heated congressional races in the state in 2022, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau announced Monday he is planning on running in the new 6th Congressional District. He will be running as a Republican and, so far, will battle energy consultant Niki Conforti in the…

Palos Park's Denise Cowan is one of four citizens to object to the village considering video gaming. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Park delays gaming vote again

By Jeff Vorva Someone should send the mayor of Palos Park some Alka-Seltzer. For the third meeting in a row, the Palos Park Village Council did not take any action on bringing gaming machines to town. Mayor John Mahoney and Commissioner Dan Polk are leaning in favor of it to help out the local businesses…

More than 800 runners competed in this year’s Turkey Trot. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Record number of runners come out for 33rd Turkey Trot

By Jeff Vorva Correspondent In 2019, Patrick Foster won the Orland Park Turkey Trot for his first top finish in a competitive race. This year, he was back in the winner’s circle. Foster, an Orland Park native who now lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin, finished the 2 1/2-mile race in 14 minutes, 19.9 seconds…

Madelyn and Zachary Rodrigues are proud to hold an annual toy drive benefiting patients at Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago. (Supplied photos)

Teen helps others despite brittle bone disease

Family toy drive benefits Comer Children’s Hospital By Kelly White Early on in her life, Madelyn Rodrigues was diagnosed with Osteogeneis Imperfects, a brittle bone disease that has already resulted in more than 70 bone fractures in her 14 years of life. As a freshman at Illinois Lutheran High School in Crete, Madelyn’s inner strength…

Peggy Zabicki

Thankful for the man who gave us Peanuts

By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place • (773) 504-9327 Did you know that Charles M. Schulz, author of the Peanuts cartoon series, was born on Nov. 26, 1922? I’m thankful and grateful for his creativity, which has endured the test of time. His cartoon movie, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, was first…

Kathy Headley

Marquette Bank wants your opinions

By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 So after eating the big Thanksgiving meal and maybe planning some weekend shopping, if you are a Marquette Bank customer, you might want to take the 2021 Customer Survey before it’s too late. The deadline is Nov. 30.…

Karen Sala

There are many Jewels, but ours shines brightest

By Karen Sala Your correspondent in Gage Park (773) 471-1429 • [email protected] Turkey Day is over, and now it’s time for leftovers! I enjoy leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner more than the original. Even though I went by my son’s, I still made my own turkey and sides. That way I have leftovers. I was watching TV…

Mary Stanek

The best is what’s left over

By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon 3808 W. 57th Place • (773) 284-7394 I hope everyone’s tummies are full of all that Thanksgiving goodness. In the words of actor and comedian Kevin James, “Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants!” Now the best part about Thanksgiving being…

CRR NH Evergreen Window Door House Ad
CRR NH Les Brothers Restaurant House Ad