Dems Leave Town Without Addressing Controversy Over Dangerous Prisoner Releases

In March of 2024, in Chicago, an 11-year old boy was murdered and his mother was stabbed by a man released by the Prisoner Review Board (PRB). The man, Crosetti Brand, had a known history of domestic violence and was released by the PRB.  Following that heinous crime, a PRB member and the chair both resigned their positions. Amid this controversy surrounding the PRB, Leader McCombie and most of the Republican caucus signed onto the new House Bill 681 (Cassidy) that was a complete reform of the Prisoner Review Board. Yet House Speaker Chris Welch failed to address it before leaving spring legislative session for summer vacation.

Republicans have been pushing a reform bill (House Bill 4852) sponsored by Leader Tony McCombie, since it was filed in February. The bill would be an amendment to the Sex Offender Registration Act and would require that a written notification be sent to any victim of a sex offender or sexual predator of the offender’s release, 30 days before the release. Following the murder in March, Leader McCombie added more reforms to HB 4852 to address the failures of PRB to protect the 11-year old boy and his mother Speaker Welch, in deference to Governor JB Pritzker’s opposition to PRB reforms, has successfully stalled the bill so much that the supporters of the bill have turned their attention to the steadily moving “Cassidy Bill” as a mechanism to vent their bipartisan frustrations at Governor Pritzker and Speaker Welch’s opposition to reforms.

House Bill 681, introduced by House Democrat Kelly M. Cassidy, contains significant reforms to the PRB. The legislation has attracted 75 members of the Illinois House as co-sponsors. The bill ensures that victims are notified when prisoners are released on parole and seeks to better inform victims on how to file an impact statement, as well as making sure that these statements are taken into consideration by the PRB. Also included in the bill are new standards to review for prisoners before their release, making sure to take into consideration if they have followed any orders of protection or no contact orders filed against them. The bill also enacts an annual training program for board members and calls for the creation of the PRB Task Force and a mission statement for the PRB.

Unfortunately, Speaker Welch’s directed Democrats to leave town, rather than staying to do this important work to keep Illinois residents safe in their communities.