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January 7, 2011

Former Governor Ryan briefly released from prison to visit dying wife

This local news report, which is headlined "Ryan secretly visited ailing wife, prosecutors say," updates an interesting high-profile story of prison policy and procedure. Here are the particulars:

Former Gov. George Ryan visited his ailing wife Wednesday night for two hours, according to a court filing Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago — something that his lawyers haven’t disclosed as they sought his release on bail,.

Ryan was released from a federal prison for the visit and escorted by federal Bureau of Prisons officials, prosecutors said. On Wednesday, Lura Lynn Ryan was taken to a Kankakee hospital after going into what her doctors described as septic shock. Her condition was called “very grave” by former Gov. James Thompson, a family friend and attorney who’s been making the case in the news media for Ryan’s release.

As he has pleaded for officials to take mercy and allow the imprisoned 76-year-old former governor to be released on bail so he could go to his wife’s hospital bedside, Thompson never disclosed that Ryan was indeed allowed to do so through a second avenue — a temporary furlough granted by the warden of his prison. The Bureau of Prisons doesn’t disclose when it furloughs a prisoner, or when it refuses to.

On Thursday, Thompson said that lawyers hadn’t gotten any word from officials at the prison where Ryan is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence on his corruption conviction. Thompson could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office disclosed that Ryan had visited his wife in a filing with the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in which prosecutors objected to Ryan’s bid for a release on bail while he appeals his 2006 conviction. Prosecutors said the appeals court should reject Ryan’s bail request because “Ryan has not shown that his appeal is likely to succeed. This court has repeatedly cautioned that the courts’ limited authority to grant bail in the context of collateral proceedings should be exercised ‘very sparingly.’ ”

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January 7, 2011 at 11:44 AM | Permalink


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What's that? The government, without a court order, had already given him the compassionate visit he sought, and defense counsel withheld this fact from the court? And the press? While leading us to believe that BOP was a heartless monster?

My goodness. The defense is (to put it mildly) lacking in candor. Will wonders never cease?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 7, 2011 1:19:11 PM

While I am happy at the result, one must wonder (as I expressed in my comment in the related post) how many non-former-Goverors or those with less well-known names would have been granted a furlough.

Posted by: DEJ | Jan 7, 2011 1:23:16 PM

Hold on now Mr. Otis, you are jumping a huge chasm to make that conclusion. It is likely that Mr. Ryan's lawyers were not informed of the visit in advance as those decisions are made by the BOP and for safety and security reasons not disclosed to anyone, including the person's attorney. It is possible that Mr. Ryan's lawyers were asking the Court to release him in case the BOP did not provide him with such a visit.

Posted by: another afpd | Jan 7, 2011 2:23:37 PM

Actually, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is pretty good overall about furloughs and hardship releases. Readers would be surprised, I think, how frequently that system permits temporary (and in rare cases for extreme illness permanent) releases for a host of reasons.

Posted by: defense attorney | Jan 7, 2011 2:28:37 PM

The idea that the former governor's attorneys didn't know about this is absurd.

Posted by: NCProsecutor | Jan 7, 2011 2:30:32 PM

Mr. Otis jumping to conclusions? Will wonders never cease?

Posted by: lawyer | Jan 7, 2011 2:30:48 PM

I am will Bill. Ryan has attempted to use his wife's illness as a means to an end (his release) all along. It's not about her. It's about him.

Posted by: P. S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jan 7, 2011 3:24:25 PM

Sorry, I meant "I am WITH Bill."

Posted by: P. S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jan 7, 2011 3:26:06 PM

afpd --

In the wildly unlikely event BOP did not notify Ryan's lawyer (a former Governor and US Attorney), Ryan himself certainly would have. This was, according to the defense, a matter requiring immediate attention. The wife was supposedly in grave condition. When BOP told Ryan he would be going, either then and there, or right after the visit, Ryan would have notified his counsel. But counsel never advised the court, and went ahead with an "emergency" motion AFTER the emergency had passed.

To play on the court's and the public's sympathies in this way may be just fine with the understandably anonymous "lawyer," but it's another illustration of why the legal profession has the reputation it does.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 7, 2011 4:37:51 PM

You mean it supports this statement, 99% of the Lawyers, give the rest of them a bad name..

Posted by: Abe | Jan 7, 2011 4:50:48 PM

When the BOP decides to furlough in secret, it is in secret! The inmate is immediately guarded and not allowed to phone anyone, even his lawyer. No one is allowed to know the inmate's movements or their timing -- to avoid breakouts. How come you lawyers posting comments do not know that. Most inmates are not even allowed to attend funeral services of immediate family members, even when the inmate is in a federal prison camp and has less than 6 months left to serve. Ryan seems to have gotten special treatment.

Posted by: immediate family | Jan 7, 2011 7:57:30 PM

I agree with immediate family - including the observation that most attorneys don't seem to know very much about how things work at the BOP. The Federal BOP standard operating procedure would be to put Ryan in solitary confinement at least 24 hours before escorting him to the hospital. He wouldn't have an opportunity to make a phone call. People like to believe that compassionate furloughs are allowed, but it mostly only happens on TV these days. It's possible they were more common once upon a time, but they can't be bothered to administer and guard these types of releases given the tremendous growth of prison populations in this country.

Posted by: 114 | Jan 7, 2011 9:12:47 PM

Ryan should not have gotten this request granted. Funny, now that the shoe is on the other foot, Governor Ryan thinks that the criminal justice machinery should have some sensitivity to families. Given his cruel toying with the families of death row inmates when he was considering commuting all death sentences in Illinois, Ryan is the LAST person who deserves mercy here. Let him rot.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 7, 2011 9:36:24 PM

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Posted by: davidmurrey1 | Jan 8, 2011 6:25:13 AM

It's worth noting as well that furloughs are often granted only to those who can pay the salaries (plus overtime and travel) of guards ordered to accompany them. This applies to violent and non-violent offenders alike. In larger states, where prisoners are many hours away from home, this amounts to thousands of dollars in guard pay, which the vast majority of prisoners and their families do not readily have. At least in California state prisons, prisoners who cannot prove they can pay are denied permission to furlough on family emergencies. Irrespective of the issue of who should pay such costs, the fact remains that permission to furlough is only granted to prisoners who can pay, and in our modern day prison system, those prisoners are very few and far between.

Posted by: recent former prisoner | Jan 8, 2011 11:14:49 AM

recent former prisoner --

When a person wants a special deal not ordinarily available to those similarly situated, he should bear the costs. This applies to prisoners and non-prisoners alike.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 8, 2011 1:27:15 PM

Furloughs are not a "special deal" but are codified by prison regulations (as other posters have duly noted).

Posted by: recent former prisoner | Jan 8, 2011 7:38:25 PM

recent former prisoner --

It most certainly is a special deal. How many do you think get it?

What were you in for? Fraud?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 9, 2011 11:46:17 PM

Bill Otis,

Read my initial post. The ones that get it are very few and far between. But furloughs are not supposed to be a special deal, they are by regulation for all prisoners. In practice, however, they are only granted to less than a handful.

Read the prison regs,and get to know the procedures in practice. Your initial post suggests you haven't. Immediate Family and 114 are right about most attys not knowing about BOP procedures.

Posted by: recent former prisoner | Jan 10, 2011 2:05:54 PM

FYI: http://www.pardonpower.com/2011/01/ryan-back-to-square-one.html

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jan 11, 2011 10:21:30 AM

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