Andrew Chesney


Andrew Chesney


Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board is Plagued with Problems

It’s no secret that Governor JB Pritzker is the most liberal governor our state has ever seen. After all, he made Illinois the abortion capitol of the United States and brought us mandatory LGBTQ curricula in schools, free healthcare to migrants and illegal immigrants, and the SAFE-T Act.

The Governor is also responsible for appointing people to serve on a little-known panel called the Prisoner Review Board (PRB), a 15-member group that serves as Illinois’ parole board. These individuals have an incredibly important job. They review the applications of prison inmates that are up for parole and decide if they should remain incarcerated or if they should be released. For some of the less violent crimes, the decisions are easier and carry less weight. But for those convicted of more heinous crimes, like murder, rape, and incest, the decisions are much more difficult and carry significant consequences.

As such, appointments to the board should be well-thought-out. They should go to people with backgrounds in public safety or criminal justice and with specific skillsets. Above all, appointments to this board should not be politically motivated. Yet that’s exactly what appears to have happened over the last several years with these positions that carry a $96,920 per year salary. That is not a typo.

The makeup of the PRB has changed noticeably during Pritzker’s time in office and is just one more example of Pritzker’s soft on crime agenda. He has made several high-profile, controversial appointments to the PRB, including a convicted double murderer. He also appointed an individual who took a vote as a PRB member to release an inmate he served time with in prison.

On Pritzker’s watch, prisoners are being released in record numbers. Statistics on the PRB’s website tell the story. Pritzker’s appointees lead the pack in the percentage of adult discharges granted. His rate of release is nearly three times as high as the board under Governor Bruce Rauner, nearly eight times higher than Governor Pat Quinn’s PRB, and more than four time’s higher than Governor Rod Blagojevich’s PRB.

In recent years the Governor’s PRB made news when he routinely sidestepped a requirement that his appointees be confirmed by the Senate. Under Illinois law, appointees to the PRB can serve for up to 60 session days before they must be confirmed. To skirt the law, as the 60-day mark approached, Pritzker would withdraw their names and then re-appoint them days later, restarting the clock. At one point ten of the 15 board members were unconfirmed while receiving those fat paychecks.

The PRB was in the news again last month when a recent parolee, Crosetti Brand, was charged with stabbing an 11-year-old boy to death as he tried to protect his pregnant mother, who suffered multiple stab wounds in the attack. Released on parole in October of 2023 for a separate crime, Brand was back in state custody in February of this year after he sent the mother messages threatening to kill her and allegedly trying to break into her house. Despite the threats, the boy’s mother seeking an order of protection, and Brand’s history of domestic abuse, Pritzker’s PRB voted to release him.

In the aftermath, the PRB chairman and one other board member resigned, but that is not enough. Senate Republicans are pushing for no-nonsense reforms to this board. Our reforms prioritize victims, depoliticize the appointment process, and ensure accountability for decisions made by the board (Senate Bill 1175). An additional measure would increase penalties for violating orders of protection (Senate Bill 964).

A board as important as a parole board should be treated with the utmost respect and it should be staffed with individuals who hold public safety in the highest regard. I hope our legislation receives the consideration it deserves so the Illinois Prison Review Board is staffed with professionals who respect the law and public safety and deliver decisions that are in the best interest of all Illinoisans.

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