Friday, August 10, 2012

Why the surprise? Except for those who want harsher-than-the-norm for Ryan

I was surprised at the reports earlier this week about former Gov. George Ryan being eligible for release to a work-release program sometime early next year. But only because such a revelation was considered newsworthy to begin with.
A little late, but it will be true next year

Personally, I had heard for some time that Ryan would be removed from the work camp near the maximum-security federal correctional center near Terre Haute, Ind., sometime in January or February.

THAT WOULD ALLOW him to be assigned to a half-way house, most likely to a facility as close as they could get to his hometown of Kankakee. Quite possibly somewhere in Chicago.

It also means that the final few months of his sentence would be served out of prison.

It’s standard procedure for many inmates in the federal Bureau of Prisons system. The idea is to try to assimilate people back into the real world gradually – rather than have them sitting in a cell one day and walking the streets the next.

So to me, the announcement made by Ryan’s attorney (former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, under whom Ryan served as lieutenant governor) was significant for one reason – it put a more specific timeframe on the matter.

RYAN’S PRISON TERM is scheduled to end July 4, 2013, and he gets to spend the last five months at a yet-to-be determined halfway house, according to the Associated Press. That would mean February would be the day that Ryan quits being a honorary Hoosier and will return to us in Illinois.

I’m sure some of us can come up with demeaning images of the former governor working some sort of menial labor by day, then reporting to the half-way house every night for those last few months. The Internet is already full of gags about Ryan as a fry-cook at a fast food restaurant franchise somewhere.

Although more serious speculation has the former governor perhaps working in a library somewhere – having to see how well he remembers the Dewey Decimal System. Or perhaps he’ll get a job in one of those new-fangled libraries that file books by much-more-informal subject matter systems.

Although considering that many people use the modern-day library as a place to use computers free-of-charge, perhaps Ryan will be the guy who walks around with a cloth – wiping away the smudges and sticky stains left by people on the computer equipment.

NOT THAT THE image will be nasty enough for a certain segment of society – which already is expressing its outrage that Ryan won’t have to spend more time in prison. Then again, those people are the ones who would be equally upset at the idea of Ryan being released in July.

They’re probably going to start claiming that Ryan having his sentence end on Independence Day somehow taints an “All-American” holiday.

To my mind, it makes about as much sense as the people of Vicksburg, Miss., refusing to celebrate Independence Day for roughly eight decades following the Civil War. It took the overwhelming patriotic sentiment of the Second World War to end that hostility.

Which seems about as intense as the hatred some people have toward the man who took on an issue they would have preferred to ignore – all the flaws that existed in our state’s death penalty system! I suspect that for some people, there will never be an end to the hostility toward George Ryan.

WHICH REALLY IS a shame. Because there comes a time when, for our own good, we have to put away our contempt for someone just so that it doesn’t overwhelm our own lives.

People who keep obsessing about Ryan (and Rod Blagojevich, for that matter) are the ones who theoretically are holding Illinois back – moreso than any pension underfunding or other financial problems the state suffers from.


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