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Republicans want change after Prtizker board paroles now-alleged murderer

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(The Center Square) – A shakeup at the Illinois Prisoner Review Board has Republicans calling for reforms.

Illinois Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said the resignation of two people from the PRB Monday, member LeAnn Miller and Chair Donald Shelton, following a recent parolee allegedly murdering a child and stabbing their mother is “another example of [Gov. J.B. Pritzker] failing to oversee an agency under his control.”

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said the PRB shouldn’t be under Pritzker’s control.

“He has politicized the process and he has tried to ram unqualified appointees through the Senate. When the Senate has objected, he has not worked with us,” Plummer told The Center Square. “This tragic event that happened is a perfect example of what we warned the governor would happen if he continued down this reckless path that he’s been dead set on following since he took office when it comes to the PRB.”

Plummer spoke out against Miller’s appointment in the spring of 2023 when she was voted on by the Senate. Plummer said this isn’t a one-off.

Miller conducted the recent Crosetti Brand hearing and prepared a draft order provided to a panel of two additional members for concurrence, as per PRB procedure, the governor’s office said.

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board let Brand go on parole. Brand allegedly killed a 11-year old boy and stabbed his mother one day after being granted parole.

“My thoughts are with Laterria Smith as she recovers and with the entire family of Jayden Perkins as we mourn this tragic loss – may his memory be a blessing,” Pritzker said.

Max Cerda, another board member, was convicted of a double murder when he was 16 years old and was appointed by Pritzker in March 2021.

“Historically, if you look at the PRB, under [former governors] Blagojevich, Quinn and Rauner, the voting under the PRB, the voting stayed relatively consistent,” said Plummer. “Under Pritzker, he started withholding some of the appointees and not allowing them to go before the Senate for confirmation. We noticed the voting patterns on the PRB changed dramatically. They were letting people out at a much more aggressive pace and at a higher rate. When we started asking questions about votes that were cast, questions about the appointees, Pritzker started playing games.”

Cerda, while on the PRB, voted to let out a convicted cop killer whom Cerda actually served time with in prison.

Another controversial appointee of Pritzker’s was Oreal James, who Plummer said voted to release multiple cop killers.

Another controversial appointee of Pritzker’s was Eleanor Kaye Wilson, the god-mother to former President Barack Obama’s daughters.

“She [Wilson] couldn’t answer any questions [in committee],” said Plummer. “We got her removed. When Wilson, James, Cerda and a few of these people who were controversial came up … Miller was a part of that group. We got some of them to resign and some failed to get the votes on the floor. The governor pulled Miller and then served on the board for another year.”

Plummer said Pritzker appointed people to the PRB, then withdrew their name from consideration, then reappointed them.

“These people would serve for many months or even years without being confirmed by the Senate,” said Plummer.

After Miller and Shelton resigned Monday, Pritzker said he’s committed to ensuring additional safeguards and training are in place to prevent tragedies like this week’s from happening again.

“If you want tragedies like this to not happen again, you can’t let people like Pritzker appoint unqualified people to this board,” said Plummer.

Plummer said in 2023, when Miller was confirmed by the Senate, Miller had other troubling votes.

“The Prisoner Review Board must be able to operate independently as they review enormously difficult cases, but I believe LeAnn Miller has made the correct decision in stepping down from her role,” Pritzker said Monday. “It is clear that evidence in [the Brand] case was not given the careful consideration that victims of domestic violence deserve.”

Miller’s annual compensation was nearly $90,000 and Shelton’s was nearly $93,000. They’re salaries were paid by the taxpayers of Illinois.

When asked what could be done, Plummer said Senate Republicans will continue to roll out legislative ideas to try to fix what he said is broken.

“I personally have legislation that has been presented and languishing in the Senate for two plus years to address some of the issues with the PRB,” said Plummer. “Unfortunately there’s people there [in the Senate] that would rather do the governor’s bidding than do what’s right for their constituents.”

In a news release, the governor’s office said it will be working closely with the General Assembly to address vacancies on the PRB and will be conducting a thorough search for qualified candidates over the coming weeks.

“Can we all just agree that murderers, rapists and child molesters and people who are obviously threats to society should not be let out of prison early? Can we all agree to that? The governor needs to heed the warnings,” said Plummer.

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