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Amid controversy at Prisoner Review Board, Pritzker calls for more training as GOP again seeks reform

Amid controversy at Prisoner Review Board, Pritzker calls for more training as GOP again seeks reform

Governor says board failed to consider prisoner’s domestic violence offense before his release

By COLE LONGCOR
Capitol News Illinois
Clongcor@capitolnewsillinois.com

After two members of the state’s Prisoner Review Board resigned last week following the release of a prisoner who then stabbed his ex-girlfriend and killed her son, Republicans are again calling for reforms while Gov. JB Pritzker says he will order better training. 

The PRB voted in February to release Crosetti Brand after it found there was not enough evidence that he violated his parole pertaining to a previous domestic violence charge. Brand was in prison while authorities investigated a claim that he’d violated an order of protection against his ex-girlfriend, Laterria Smith, by threatening her in January.

Read more: Prisoner Review Board chair, member resign in wake of boy’s fatal stabbing by released inmate

One day after his March 12 release from Stateville Correctional Center under the board’s direction, Brand attacked Smith, stabbing her and killing her eleven-year-old son Jayden Perkins when he tried to intervene.

“Many areas of our criminal justice system failed Miss Smith and Jayden,” Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said in a news conference Tuesday. “For years we have called for serious overhaul of the PRB. And today we are taking a step forward in that process and introducing reforms that will put victims first, take politics out of the appointment process and hold the board accountable for decisions.”

The governor's office announced the resignation of PRB member LeAnn Miller who conducted Brand’s hearing, and PRB chair Donald Shelton on March 25. Pritzker on Monday said at an unrelated news conference that Miller’s resignation “was probably a proper decision on her part.”

Pritzker appointed Miller to the Prisoner Review Board in September 2021 and her term wasn’t due to expire until January 2027. Shelton had served on the board since 2012.

Pritzker said Shelton, a Republican, “served admirably” but “did not express any reason in particular” for his resignation. 

“I think that the changes that are necessary here are evident in the fact that the panel didn't take into consideration enough the domestic violence history of this particular prisoner,” he said. 

Curran said he plans to propose legislation that would require all PRB members to have 20 cumulative years of experience working in criminal justice and to take annual domestic violence and sexual assault training. Under current law, PRB members must have five years of experience in fields like penology, corrections, law enforcement, sociology, social work, law, education, medicine, psychology or other behavioral sciences.

Curran said the resignations of Miller and Shelton were necessary but “we need to raise the qualifications of all board members.”

On Monday, Pritzker said he was planning on implementing better trainings. 

“One thing that we've decided to do is to make sure that we enhance the domestic violence training that all PRB members get, including all the ones that are there now and of course any new ones that are proposed, to make sure that this never happens again,” he said.

Pritzker’s office said Tuesday he asked the PRB to “engage with experts and advocates to design and implement expanded training for PRB members related to handling domestic violence cases.” 

The governor also directed the PRB and Illinois Department of Corrections to “review the current rules and procedures for receiving information related to cases involving domestic violence to determine what changes might be necessary,” according to a spokesperson. 

Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, is proposing to increase criminal penalties for violating an order of protection. The proposal would turn the misdemeanor offense into a Class 4 felony for first violation and a Class 3 felony for subsequent violations. 

Curran’s proposal would also require the PRB to release notice of their decision including the member’s deliberation and votes, within 24 hours to the public. PRB would also be mandated to immediately notify victims of prisoner releases. 

“My legislation will put victims first by requiring the PRB to make every effort possible to immediately inform a victim when an inmate is being released,” Curran said. “It is critical the victim knows that someone who could be a danger to them is out of prison.”

House Republicans have also proposed reforms.

“Lives were lost because of the lack of responsibility and due diligence at the PRB,” House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said in a statement. “When innocent people die because of bad policy, we must correct course immediately.”

McCombie said she will amend her proposed House Bill 4852, dubbed the Community Protection Act, to require the PRB to notify the community when a prisoner with a charge or history of domestic violence is released. Originally, the bill required that victims, county law enforcement and county state’s attorney's offices be notified at least 30 days before the release of a sex offender or sexual predator.

Pritzker, meanwhile, has not nominated anyone to fill the open PRB positions. After last week’s resignations, the board is down to 11 members from the maximum 15. In the spring of 2022, the board was down to just six members after Republicans successfully lobbied against Pritzker’s appointed board members – a number so low the board could not meet quorum to conduct its business.

The governor on Monday said that politics is making the process of filling the board harder.

“The more that people politicize the position, the less likely it is that someone would want to serve in it,” Pritzker said.

The board’s chair earns about $108,000 annually, while other board members earn nearly $97,000. 

Curran on Tuesday rebuffed Pritzker’s comments.

“Here we have the Prisoner Review Board and (Department of Corrections) both complicit in the death of a child and the governor talks about a process being political,” he said. “Please, it's nonsense.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

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Cole Longcor

Cole LongcorCole Longcor

Cole Longcor is a University of Illinois Public Affairs Reporting program intern for Capitol News Illinois for 2024.

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Full biography

Cole Longcor is a University of Illinois Public Affairs Reporting program intern for Capitol News Illinois for 2024. Each year, CNI takes at least one intern from the program, working with them to supplement our state government coverage as they earn a master’s degree from UIS.

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