SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The suspect in the recent fatal shooting of a Decatur man was released from an Illinois prison five months early as part of a revamped out-for-good-behavior prisons program, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.
Joshua A. Jones served 19 months of a four-year sentence for drug-dealing and left the state prison in Vandalia May 3. Jones is now in Macon County Jail charged with murder in the Aug. 17 shooting death of 22-year-old Marvin E. Perry in Decatur — three months before his original release date.
The case is a potential embarrassment for Gov. Pat Quinn and the Department of Corrections under the revamped early-release program, just three years after the governor struggled to win the 2010 election following a scandal involving the early release of more than 1,700 inmates within weeks or even days of arriving at prison. The AP reported at the time that they included hundreds of prisoners convicted of violent crimes or with violent histories.
After shutting down all early-out programs for three years, a revised, stricter plan was approved by Quinn and lawmakers last spring that overall appears to be less problematic. Records analyzed by the AP show that since March, more than 1,600 inmates have been let go up to six months early, and only 20 have been returned to prison for violating parole — just over 1 percent.
Early release is a decades-long practice used by state prison chiefs to keep statewide population crowding under control while ostensibly rewarding inmates' good behavior, positive work history or educational pursuits behind bars.
Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said all the proper rules were followed in the case of the 28-year-old Jones, who was spending his first time in prison and was eligible for the stricter new program. When asked whether the Vandalia warden and his staff signed off on Jones' release, Shaer said only they "are among the minimum of six people who review each" potential candidate.
Jones had been convicted of the manufacture and delivery of crack cocaine, heroin and hydrocodone in 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison. Originally charged with armed violence when police found him with a gun, Jones agreed to plead guilty to the drug charges in exchange for having the gun counts dismissed, according to Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott, whose predecessor prosecuted the case.
Jones also was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in 2009, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge and was sentenced to 18 months' conditional discharge and fined $500. He did not serve prison time for it.
Contact AP Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor