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State

Bill would allow early release of older inmates

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation working its way through the Illinois House would allow some prison inmates over the age of 50 to be released early.

The measure, which supporters say would reduce overcrowding and save money caring for older prisoners, would apply to inmates who have served more than 25 years of their sentence, according to a report by the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers.

A committee passed the measure Tuesday and sent it to the full House.

"This bill is built on the premise that people can and do change," said Bill Ryan, a prisoner rights advocate.

He said about 800 inmates could qualify under the program as the state's inmate population ages. He said that's up from about 30 inmates in the late 1980s.

"Obviously this is a fast-growing population," he said.

But opponents told committee members that the proposal would violate the rights of crime victims.

Mary Kay Mace, the mother of a student killed in a mass shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008, said allowing an early release of inmates would be traumatizing to victims and their families.

"You cannot know the harm you are doing," she said. "Please don't do this to crime victims."

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