Ryan Request Not Without Precedent, Lawyers Say

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Scott Olson
    Former Gov. George Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn Ryan.

    With his wife near death, lawyers for former Gov. George Ryan have asked for an emergency furlough from his jail sentence.

    Former First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan was hospitalized in intensive care at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee on Wednesday, and doctors said she may have only days, perhaps hours, to live.

    Ryan's attorney, former Gov. Jim Thompson, said Ryan is not a flight risk or danger to the community, and says the non-transfer furlough that's been requested isn't without precedent.

    "It's not George Ryan getting something that somebody else can't get," said Thompson.  "That program is a program of the Bureau of Prisons.  It's open to any inmate, not just to George Ryan.  It's nothing special."

    Though maybe not special, it is rare.

    From 2007 through 2009, of a population of about 271,000 inmates nationwide only 13 percent were granted furloughs.  Of those, only one percent were non-transfer furloughs.  And of those, only one percent fell into the crisis category to visit a dying relative.

    In total, just 642 cases over three years were granted.

    Ryan is a little more than three years into his 6 1/2 year sentence at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. on racketeering, conspiracy, and other charges.  A judge denied Gov. Ryan's motion last month for early release.

    U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said prison wardens decide whether to grant bedside visit requests, but that the agency cannot disclose whether a request is made or granted due to privacy and safety concerns.

    Ryan also has an emergency appeal pending in the federal courts.  The government has until Friday to respond.

    Lura Lynn Ryan was admitted to the hospital Wednesday after apparent complications from chemotherapy. She has been diagnosed with lung cancer as well as cancer in her kidneys, spine, pelvis and liver.

    The Ryan family has instructed hospital personnel to not give any updates on the former First Lady's condition.