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After 396 arrests, woman begs for parole: ‘I’m gonna change’

Cook County Sheriff's Office Mugshot ShermaMiles from August 25 2012

Cook County Sheriff's Office Mugshot of Shermain Miles from August 25, 2012

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Updated: May 25, 2013 6:29AM



LINCOLN, Ill. — Shermain Miles sat in a cinder-block room facing an enormous window — with a view of freedom in the distance — and declared herself a changed woman Tuesday.

“I don’t want to be a big monster,” said Miles, who has amassed 396 arrests in the city since 1978.

On the verge of tears, Miles begged the Illinois Prisoner Review Board during a hearing inside Logan Correctional Center to give her yet another chance at freedom.

And she might just get it. Board Chairman Adam Monreal told Miles that he plans to talk to Paul Biebel Jr., the chief judge at the 26th and California courthouse, to see if Miles is eligible for a specialized mental health court that likely would require intense supervision — and possibly in a community setting.

To which Miles replied at one point: “Praise God!”

Board members said they didn’t see any evidence that Miles — described as being “acutely psychotic” — had previously been in the program.

Miles, 51, was most recently released from prison in April 2011, after serving three years of a six-year term for robbery. But when she allegedly chased after Ald. James Cappleman (46th) last summer in Uptown, she was eventually sent back to prison on a possible parole violation in the robbery case. She’s remained in prison ever since.

The parole board has a variety of options — it could release Miles or keep her locked up until her parole expires in November.

But during Tuesday’s hearing, board members told Miles they want her to get the treatment she needs.

“We want to find a way for you to get the treatment . . . to be successful,” board member Craig Findley told Miles.

But Findley also wanted to know why Miles, shackled at the wrists, hasn’t agreed to take medication for her mental health issues while at Logan. Miles replied that she’d found God, started a Bible study and is now a “role model” for young inmates. She appeared lucid and rational as she responded.

“Does your faith say you shouldn’t take medication?” Findley asked.

No, Miles replied, but she said she would only take the right medication.

The board asked Miles about Cappleman, and her compliant tone instantly changed. She denied laying a finger on the alderman, who has organized a campaign to make sure his ward’s notorious resident isn’t released without intense supervision.

“He lied on me and said I pushed him,” Miles snapped.

Cappleman declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on Miles’ statement.

Toward the end of the hearing, Monreal warned Miles that the consequences would be severe if she’s given another break and then screws up.

“If you fail, you’ll regret meeting me,” Monreal said, staring hard at Miles.

“I’m gonna change,” she said quietly.

After the hearing, Findley said, “She sounded sincere, but offenders always sound sincere.”

Monreal was asked why he thought Miles deserved another chance — given her track record.

“If we can provide her with the opportunity to get back on the right track, then that’s what we’re here for,” he said.



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