Former Gov. George Ryan is using examples from his own time in prison to call for changes to the criminal justice system. Ryan made a rare public speech in Waukegan at a luncheon hosted by the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism. He called on advocates and state lawmakers to push for legislation to allow those released from prison a chance to shed the tag of “felon” so getting a job is easier once they’re free. “I’m not looking for work, I’m too old,” Ryan said, “but young people I served with when I was in the Terre Haute camp, I saw a lot of young men that have to wear that tag the rest of their life.”
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Ryan even joked to state lawmakers about the current budget stalemate in calling for them to address criminal justice reform issues. “I understand you haven’t got much to do in Springfield these days,” Ryan said. “It’d be a good program for you to work on.” Much of Ryan’s speech focused on his decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois in 2000. He now says getting rid of the death penalty is his main focus in his post-prison life. “I’m 81 years old now, and I’m going to devote the rest of my life to the cause of abolition in this country and other countries around the world,” Ryan said.