The “Prisoner Review Board” is Failing to Provide Safety for the Grandchildren of Illinois

The “Prisoner Review Board” is Failing to Provide Safety for the Grandchildren of Illinois

By Doug Wyllie

Photo by De an Sun on Unsplash

Sitting astride the DuPage River about 30 miles west of Chicago, the City of Naperville is a pretty prototypical semi-affluent suburb. For the nearly 150,000 residents, it’s close enough to the Windy City for a reasonable daily commute to work, and far enough away to be distinctly different from the third largest metropolis in the country.

Naperville isn’t as wealthy as Wilmette or Winnetka, but it’s also not as hardscrabble as Harwood Heights or Hickory Hills. The Naperville Development Partnership (NDP)—a public/private organization comprised of business leaders and public officials—brags that the median annual income is in the vicinity of $127K and median property value just shy of a half million dollars.

Importantly, Naperville seems—by just about any measure—a good place for families. Youngsters of all ages enjoy hands-on learning exhibits the DuPage Children’s Museum, of course, but the city also boasts one of the top school districts in the state of Illinois. The high school graduation rate of 96% in the 2020-2021 school year (the most recent for which statistics are presently available).

Naperville is not without crime, however, and its children are among those at risk of becoming victims. Such was the case one afternoon in the middle of June, when a 24-year-old parolee named Anton Cross had designs on stealing a car, and was perfectly content to victimize a small boy and his grandfather to achieve that end.

Give Me Your [F*ck*ng] Keys

According to Naperville Community Television, Cross approached a motorist placing a child into the back seat of a vehicle parked just outside the western edge of the McDowell Grove Forest Preserve. The would-be assailant asked for directions, and the man—whose name has not been released—offered what he could by way of assistance.

Cross reportedly then proceeded to draw a handgun and say, “Give me your [f*ck*ng] keys.”

The grandfather refused, and Cross fled the scene—by God’s Grace and good fortune, the victims were left unharmed. Cross was soon arrested and charged with sundried crimes including attempted aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Let’s give further thought to five key words in the four paragraphs immediately preceding this one: parolee, felon, victimize, arrested, and charged.

You see, Anton Cross was sentenced to nine years in prison for fatally shooting 18-year-old Timothy Jones—a high school senior—in December 2016. Cross was admitted to a state prison in July 2021 and released on parole (officially called “mandatory supervised release”) in January 2023.

Let’s give further thought to that sequence of events. Found guilty of second-degree murder in March 2021, sentenced to nine years in prison, and out on parole—free to reoffend—less than two years later.

In all likelihood, this is thanks—and “thanks” isn’t exactly the correct word—to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB).

Falling Flat in the Prairie State

According to its website, the Illinois PRB is a “quasi-judicial body” entirely independent of the Department of Corrections that determines “release conditions for incarcerated individuals who are exiting penal facilities” and “notifies victims and their families when an inmate is about to be released from custody.”

In plain English, the PRB is what other states call a parole board. When the decision on an inmate’s proposed release from custody is to be made, at least three of the members must convene and make a recommendation based on a “risk assessment” of whether or not the individual can/will remain at liberty without committing another offense.

At present, the PRB is comprised of Chairman Donald Shelton and eleven other members—Jared Bohland, Matthew Coates, Julie Globokar, DarrylDean Goff, Jeffrey Grubbs, Rodger Heaton, LeAnn Miller, Robin Shoffner, Carmen Terrones, Krystal Tison, and Ken Tupy.

A few of those folks possess impressive professional pedigrees. Most notably, Shelton was a Patrol Sergeant with the Champaign Police Department and Grubbs was Chief of Police for the City of Carbondale. Other members hold advanced post-graduate degrees in things like Criminology and Educational while others are (or recently were) practicing attorneys.

In plain English, this is not a collection of dunces—which is why some of their decisions on granting parole are so confounding and confusing and chagrining.

Consider the case of 32-year-old James Lomax who was/is on parole with the Illinois Department of Corrections when he was found during a traffic stop (just last week) to be in possession of a loaded handgun and an undisclosed amount of narcotics. He now faces charges of armed habitual criminal and felon in possession of a firearm while on parole.

There’s also the case of 30-year-old Treyvonne Rideout, who was/is on parole with the Illinois Department of Corrections when he was arrested in Joliet in connection with an incident in which he was the suspected driver in a hit-and-run traffic collision. He now faces charges of being an armed habitual criminal, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of ammunition, as well as aggravated fleeing and eluding.

Then there’s the case of 35-year-old William Joseph Fues, who was/is on “supervised release” from the Illinois Department of Corrections when he allegedly forced an woman into his vehicle at gunpoint (just last week) in Davenport, Iowa. He now faces one count each of second-degree kidnapping and possession of more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, both Class B felonies under Iowa law.

That was just last week. There are dozens—if not hundreds—of other examples of parolees in the Prairie State tripping over their freedom and falling flat on their faces.

Serving at the Pleasure of… Whom?

On paper, members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board serve at the pleasure of the governor. The state’s chief executive appoints them and may also remove any individual(s) deemed to have demonstrated malfeasance, incompetence, neglect of duty, or inability to serve.

However, the governor rarely exercises this “power,” so what appears in the abstract to be a Sword of Damocles hanging over the board members’ heads is for all practical purposes an idle threat. Political pressure placed on the governor’s office is therefore probably wasted energy.

The next logical area of focus for concerned Illini might be the Illinois Senate, which must confirm all nominated appointees to the board. But that chamber’s Democratic supermajority now stands at 40-19, making any attempt to sway policy from that angle also pretty unlikely.

The next—and possibly last—way in which justice-minded Illinois citizens might rattle their sabers as they enter the voting booth could be a statewide referendum.

According to Ballotpedia, in the decade between 1996 and 2016, a total of 10 measures appeared on statewide ballots, eight of which were passed by popular vote and became law. Included were initiatives to allow state employees to negotiate wages and working conditions through collective bargaining, a restriction that prevents lawmakers from using the allocated transportation budget for anything other than transportation, and a law that increases protections for victims of crimes so they are “free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal trial process.”

Whether through voting out of office “leaders” from positions in which they fail to lead,” removing representatives” who fail to represent the best interests of the community, or writing the law of the land by their own hand, the people who live in places like Naperville clearly must make wholesale changes to the way in which public safety there is addressed.

The grandchildren of Illinois depend on it.