CHICAGO — You might think that killing a cop would lead to an automatic life sentence.
But earlier this summer, a man convicted of murdering a Chicago police officer was set free under mandatory parole rules and now another cop killer is being considered for parole.
“The message is pretty clear: That it’s alright and eventually you will be free and we will still have a police officer whose life was taken,” said Ellen Harrington, the cousin of murdered Chicago cop Terry Loftus.
Later this month, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board will once again consider parole for Ronnie Carrasquillo, the man convicted of the 1976 crime.
WGN Investigates found it can fall to the families of fallen officers to fight for their killers to remain locked-up.
“It’s really like cruel and unusual punishment to the family,” said Kurt Kaner, whose father was shot and killed at point blank range in 1970 as he sat in his squad car filling-out paperwork on a missing persons’ case.
The younger Kaner, also a Chicago police officer, attended dozens of hearings over the years arguing that his father’s murderer should not be released from prison.
“A lot of families don’t go and I always tell the [Prisoner Review] Board, ‘don’t take that as they’re not concerned about keeping this person in prison… they just don’t want to relive it.’”
State law changed in 1978 eliminating what’s known as “discretionary parole;” but that change happened after the murder of these two officers which is why their families have been in the position of being asked to testify at hearings every year.
Prison reform experts argue the point of incarceration should be rehabilitation, not just punishment.
“If we never give people an opportunity to leave prison, we’re really not following through on that mission or principle,” said Jenny Vollen-Katz of the John Howard Association.