Former Illinois Governor George Ryan said serving time on corruption charges has given him a new perspective on the criminal justice system.
“Justice is supposed to be blind, but the fact is most people are blind about the justice system,” Ryan said. “Those of us who have been there and are coming out of prison wondering what is going on. There are people concerned about what is going to happen to us, but I am not sure they care that much.”
While speaking at the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism’s 12th annual luncheon, Ryan said he wanted to remove the stigma attached to those who have served their debt to society.
“It’s a system that needs to be corrected, changed and looked at a little better than it has been,” Ryan said. “People who come out today have to carry a title of felon. Its probably the biggest deterrent to success after these people get out when they come out. That’s why they go back in.”
Ryan served more than five years at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. His successor, Rod Blagojevich, is still serving his sentence in Colorado.
“He got a raw deal,” Ryan said. “He got too much time, never should have happened. They had no business putting him in prison for 14 years.”
Ryan's speech today focused on his successful efforts to eliminate the death penalty in Illinois.
“They did the smartest thing they could, they abolished it,” Ryan said. “It was so broken. It needed to be repaired, fixed, and we couldn’t do that. So if you can’t fix a system that is going to take somebody’s life, make it the best system you can, then you probably shouldn’t have a law like that. And that’s what Illinois decided and Illinois abolished it.”