Op Ed – Southern Illinois Republican Legislators Say Gov. Pritzker’s Inmate Release Policy Endangers Public Safety

During the last week of February, House and Senate Republicans joined members of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association for a press conference to denounce Governor Pritzker’s decision to end cooperation and communication with the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). The Governor’s policy shift now allows for the release of non-citizen, violent offenders back into our communities without any notice to law enforcement.

Throughout 2019, several county sheriff’s offices across the state of Illinois worked in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Corrections to coordinate the detainment and transfer of these criminals into the custody of ICE.

With zero notice or explanation to the public or to law enforcement officials, Governor Pritzker’s administration has ended the policy of cooperating with ICE on following through with deportation orders.

Let us be clear, the criminals that are being released are not all small-time purse snatchers. In 2019, 223 individuals were transferred from IDOC custody to federal immigration authorities. Of those 223: 36 were found guilty of sexual offenses against minors, including crimes against individuals as young as 5 years old; 11 were found guilty of murder, attempted murder or intent to kill or injure; and 33 were found guilty of a criminal offense involving a weapon.

Southern Illinois is home to several state-run correctional facilities that house convicted criminals that also happen to have a deportation order waiting for them upon their release. These include Shawnee, Big Muddy, Pinckneyville, Menard, and Vienna Correctional Centers.

Instead of working with local law enforcement and the proper authorities of the federal government to deport violent criminals, Governor Pritzker has decided to release dangerous felons into our communities despite requests from federal immigration authorities to hold them. This decision endangers public safety. We join the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association in denouncing this reckless change in policy and demand it be reversed.

Furthermore, the Governor has placed a high priority on reforming Illinois’ criminal justice system. He has willing partners on the Democrat side of the aisle that now want an end to cash bail for inmates awaiting court dates. The Governor’s own Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton even appeared before a joint committee of the House and Senate’s Judiciary Criminal Law Committee earlier in February in Chicago to endorse the end of cash bail.  We feel ending cash-bail would be a mistake, and fear the consequences of any such move will result in offenders re-offending. The criminal justice system is not perfect, but the Governor’s most recent policy changes and proposals to make even further changes are not going to make any of our communities safer.

We call on Governor Pritzker to end his policy to release non-citizen, convicted felons facing deportation into Illinois’ communities without notifying the proper authorities. This is a critical issue of enforcing law and order and protecting public safety.