Lawyer: Ex-Gov. Ryan qualifies for work release

August 8, 2012

The Associated Press and Alex Keefe

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has qualified for a work release program that will allow him to leave prison five months before his scheduled release date, according to his attorney.

Ryan, 78, is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., for a 2006 corruption conviction. He is scheduled to finish serving his sentence on July 4, 2013.

But Ryan's attorney, former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, confirmed with WBEZ that Ryan will be eligible Jan. 30, 2013 to move from the prison to a halfway house. It wasn't immediately clear what Ryan would be doing in the program, but Thompson said his client would be allowed to leave the facility to work during the day.

Thompson said Ryan seemed grateful when he first found out about the release program about a week ago.

"If you had been in the penitentiary for over five years, any person would be grateful for any chance at even partial freedom and the chance to integrate back into society," Thompson said.

A Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman would not confirm Ryan's work release date.

"It is a privacy and security issue," spokesman Chris Burke said.

On Monday, a federal court in Chicago denied Ryan's latest appeal seeking an early release from federal custody. Thompson said Ryan's attorneys will try to appeal again, although the U.S. Supreme Court already has said it wouldn't hear Ryan's case.

Thompson said that in the meantime, Ryan "sounds good. Sounds like the same old George." He said Ryan's son visits his father every week.

Ryan was convicted of steering state contracts and leases to insiders as secretary of state and then as governor — receiving vacations and gifts in return. He also was accused of stopping an investigation into secretary of state employees accepting bribes for truck driver's licenses.