No special treatment for Drew Peterson: Inmate funeral furloughs fairly common
By Janet Lundquist Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org October 17, 2012 1:29AM
Updated: November 18, 2012 7:18AM
The fact that convicted wife-killer Drew Peterson was allowed out of jail to see his dead mother at a Darien funeral home last week didn’t sit well with some people.
Sheriff’s deputies escorted Peterson to the funeral home on Oct. 11, where he was allowed to spend about 30 minutes with 84-year-old Betty Morphey.
Peterson was outside the jail for about an hour, sources said.
“I was not informed that was being done,” Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said. “I would’ve strongly advised against it, but it was not unlawful.”
Not only is it lawful, Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas said the sheriff’s department often allows inmates who lose an immediate family to see their loved one — while the inmate is still in custody, of course.
“It wasn’t (done just) because it was Drew Peterson,” Kaupas said.
The department follows its “normal security procedures” for the visits, he said, though he would not detail the procedures.
Requests must be reasonable, too, Kaupas said. The sheriff isn’t likely to take an inmate out of state.
Inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections are allowed to privately view a dead relative’s body or see a critically ill relative — but not both, said Stacey Solano, spokeswoman for the department.
The decision is made on a case-by-case basis by the prison warden, she said. The warden considers the inmate’s escape risk, criminal history and disciplinary record, among other things.
Families also must pay in advance for the inmate’s transportation and guard escorts, Solano said.
So far this year 100 inmates have been allowed visitation with a dead relative, Solano said.
“You’re weighing a lot of issues, and not just necessarily the committed individual but also the impact to their families,” said George DeTella, formerly warden of Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, now chief of the Office of Risk and Emergency Management for the DuPage County Health Department.
“It’s a balancing act,” DeTella said. “The biggest concern was the overall safety and security issue, as well as impact that it had on operations.”
Federal inmates are, in rare circumstances, allowed to see terminally ill relatives or attend their funerals, said Chris Burke, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was allowed to spend several hours at his wife’s beside the June 2011 night she died of complications from lung cancer at a Kankakee hospital.
Ryan, serving time on federal corruption charges, was quietly escorted from a Terre Haute, Ind. prison to be with Lura Lynn Ryan four separate times about 130 miles away, even after an appellate court denied his lawyers’ requests for a hospital visit. He did not attend his wife’s funeral.
Inmates in minimum security camps who meet certain requirements have been given furloughs to attend funerals in which a family member would pick them up, take them to the service, and return them at a certain time, Burke said.
Other inmates have been escorted by guards, sometimes shackled, to see a terminally ill loved one or to attend a funeral.
Visits are allowed at the discretion of the warden of each institution, and require numerous approvals before they happen, Burke said.
“You have to kind of weigh the benefits,” Burke said. “It is a very powerful, impactful event that occurs in an inmates’s life. And as an agency, we have to look at the individual inmate’s well being as well as the safety of our staff and the public. We kind of balance that.”