Ryan family awaits word on release motion

January 6, 2011 4:17:11 PM PST
The Ryan family is still awaiting a decision on whether the former governor will be released from prison to visit his ailing wife.

The government's position on that emergency motion is not yet known, but the appeals court has asked the U.S. Attorney's office to respond by mid-morning Friday.

Lura Lynn Ryan remains in the intensive care unit at Kankakee's Riverside Medical Center. With stage four cancer, an already weakened respiratory system and a bacterial infection in her bloodstream, Mrs. Ryan's condition, her husband's attorney's say, is grave.

The effort to grant a temporary prison release to George Ryan, so that he might be with his wife of 55 years, continues on two fronts.

The former governor is incarcerated at the medium security federal correctional institution in Terre Haute, Ind. The Ryan legal team has asked that he be temporarily released by court order or by way of a prison furlough.

Federal policy gives prison wardens the authority to grant an inmate furlough for situations like a crisis in the immediate family or in other urgent situations.

The length of furloughs is usually brief, quite often just a day, but the warden does have flexibility to extend the furlough depending on the situation, the inmate, time served and nature of the conviction.

Ryan's lawyers have proposed that were the former governor to be temporarily released -- either by the warden or a court decision -- he could spend daytime hours with his wife, and could be jailed at night in the Kankakee County jail.

There is some precedent for temporary prison releases. Sixteen years ago, the former presiding judge of the Cook County Chancery Courts David Shields was allowed to leave prison for 72 hours to attend his daughter's wedding. Shields was serving a 37-month sentence at the time for accepting bribes.

On the other hand, one suburban Chicago man imprisoned for drug dealing was not allowed to attend his 12-year-old daughter's funeral four years ago. She was killed in a car accident while traveling to the prison to visit him.

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman couldn't say Thursday how many furlough requests have been denied or granted, or how long they typically last. They're taken case by case.