In December 2018, Donald Thurman was released from prison in Chicago after serving just two years of his six-year sentence for robbery and vehicle theft. It must have been roundly celebrated by local Cook County officials as another “criminal justice reform” success story, where success is defined by reduction of the prison population, not a reduction in crime. Fast-forward 11 months later, and a 19-year-old college student is now dead after Thurman confessed to raping and strangling her. And the endless list grows of victims of jailbreak policy.
After being reported missing by her family, Ruth George, 19, was found strangled in the back of her car on Saturday in a parking garage at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she was a student. On Monday, campus police announced that Donald Thurman, 26, who had no affiliation with the victim or the university, had been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault. Police say that he was seen on surveillance footage entering the garage at the time of the murder and later confessed to the crime.
In recent years, with the frantic one-sided push for prison reduction, Chicago has paroled a great many violent offenders and has shown a reluctance to re-incarcerate those who violate the terms of their release. Furthermore, there are too few officers to monitor that many volatile convicts out on the streets. This has collectively reduced the deterrent against career criminals because they know the politicians and judges would rather see the prison population reduced than prevent crime.
In addition to monitoring those out on parole, Chicago police are increasingly stretched thin monitoring violent criminals out on little or no bail. As part of a growing fad across the country, Ed Rush, 24, was released by Cook County Judge David Navarro on just $5,000 bond after being arrested in September for aggravated battery on a police officer. Despite a previous gun conviction and a domestic assault charge, Rush remained out even after missing one hearing in October, according to the Chicago Tribune. Chicago really is not tough on guns at all, at least not if they are possessed by violent criminals. Fast-forward to last Friday, and he was arrested after police caught him on video allegedly shooting Rayveon Hutchins, 20, to death.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Corrections, the prison population has declined by almost 20 percent since 2013. Even the worst offenders barely serve time any more. Yet, shockingly, there is still a bipartisan clamor to reduce sentencing even further rather than go back to the drawing board with real reforms to address cases like Donald Thurman.
We now see plain as day that this “reform” movement has nothing to do with “first-time, low-level, nonviolent” offenders. It applies to those convicted of assault, robbery, and gun crimes. Now, they are looking to let out even mass murderers. Earlier this year, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a new law granting criminals convicted under the age of 21 the opportunity for endless parole hearings, even for violent crimes and repeat offenses.
Discretionary parole decisions for all criminals are becoming more and more lenient. This past week, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board agreed to release Chester Weger, the infamous 1960 “Starved Rock” murderer who was sentenced to life for brutally bludgeoning three victims in an Illinois state park. Weger is now 80 years old, but had he gotten the death penalty there would be no room for bleeding-heart liberals to let their hearts bleed just for the murderer and not for the families of the victims who are horrified by his release.
The parole epidemic is not just limited to left-wing Chicago; it’s nationwide. Just last week, in Augusta, Georgia, police investigator Cecil Ridley was killed while on patrol allegedly by Alvin Hester Jr., who was out early on parole.
These are the jailbreak stories you will never hear cited during the hushed and rushed criminal justice debates in Congress and in state legislatures.
This fad to abolish prison has clearly gone too far. The question is how many more cases like Ruth George must there be before the politicians have a change of heart, assuming they have one at all.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.