Two votes were all that separated a convicted cop killer from freedom. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted 7-6 to deny parole for Ronnie Carrasquillo, who was convicted of killing Chicago police officer Terry Loftus in the 1970’s.
As WGN Investigates reported in 2020: A small group of Illinois inmates, including Carasquillo, are eligible to petition for release because they were convicted before Illinois abolished discretionary parole in 1978. In many cases it falls to the victims’ families and friends to testify at hearings year after year to keep their loved one’s killer locked-up. “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,” Ellen Harrington, the cousin of murdered Chicago cop Terry Loftus, told WGN in 2020.
“It’s really like cruel and unusual punishment to the family,” said Kurt Kaner in 2020. His 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.
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.
The Illinois Prison Project, whose executive director represented Carrasquillo, released the following statement:
“I am deeply disheartened that the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted against granting parole to Ronnie Carrasquillo,” said Jennifer Soble, executive director of the Illinois Prison Project. “Ronnie is a living example that people grow and evolve, and that our lives should not be defined by our worst act. Though he was sentenced to die behind bars, Ronnie nonetheless spent the past 45 years committed to transforming his life and those of his peers.
Ronnie suffered immeasurable trauma in the short life before his imprisonment. This culminated one early morning in October 1976 when he fired a gun into a crowd to break up a street fight, fatally striking an off-duty police officer. From the beginning, Ronnie accepted responsibility for his actions. He remains deeply remorseful for the life he took more than four decades ago.
I remain hopeful that Illinois will listen to a growing body of evidence that shows excessive sentences do not make our communities safer and instead allow hundreds of deserving people to return home to their families.”