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1,000 inmates to be set free, but it doesn't pose threat to communities

Prison bars (Storyblocks)
Prison bars (Storyblocks)
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A total of 1,000 Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmates are getting out of prison a few months early.

The state agreed to release some low- to medium-risk inmates early as part of a federal lawsuit settlement. That lawsuit was filed last spring because of a COVID-19 health crisis in state lockups.

But, does releasing inmates pose a threat to communities and public safety?

We reached out to viewers on Facebook to find out what they thought, and there were mixed reviews on if this is a good or a bad idea.

We spoke to a man who spent 37 years behind bars and got out early and he said his second chance saved his life.

"I was arrested in 1983 for a murder robbery and I am the one who committed the offense," said former Illinois death row inmate Ronaldo Hudson.

As a 19-year-old drug addict, Hudson murdered his neighbor in 1983.

He served seven years in Cook County Jail, 13 years on Illinois death row, and 17 years in the general population at various IDOC facilities.

"Over my 37 years of incarceration, I went from being a functioning illiterate to a bachelor in divinity,” Hudson said.

Hudson is now the director of education for the Illinois Prison Project (IPP), one of the advocacy groups that sued the state for the release of inmates.

"When people talk about, for example, fearful of people like me, where my action may have been monstrous in 1983, I am not a monster,” Hudson said.

"This notion that incarceration makes us safer is a myth and it isn’t the true one,” IPP Executive Director Jennifer Soble said.

So far, almost 11,000 IDOC inmates have contracted COVID-19 and 87 have died.

An IDOC spokesperson said they have given early release to 2,457 inmates since March 1, 2020 and this lawsuit just expedites the process of the next 1,000.

"This settlement makes our state safer," Soble said. "It does not make our state less safe."

"It's easy to dismiss people, especially when you're convicted,” Hudson said. “Hold me accountable for my behavior, but give me the opportunity to be better than my worst mistake."

The IDOC said they will be using their “best efforts” to process this within the next 30 days.

To be clear, all of the inmates that will be released as a part of this lawsuit are of either low or medium risk of re-offending.

We asked the IDOC for the names of the inmates being released early, but were not given a list.

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