suntimes
DROPPING 
Weather Updates

Judges to resentence violent offenders sent to boot camp

Jemarcus Haym |  Phocourtesy Cook County Sheriff's office

Jemarcus Haymon | Photo courtesy of the Cook County Sheriff's office

storyidforme: 59319369
tmspicid: 21569278
fileheaderid: 10172722
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: January 17, 2014 6:25AM



Judges say they plan to resentence inmates following a Chicago Sun-Times investigation revealed that violent offenders were being improperly sentenced to the boot camp at the Cook County Jail.

Sheriff Tom Dart wrote a letter to Cook County judges last week asking them to confirm that 52 inmates who were recently sentenced to boot camp are eligible for the program.

So far, judges have called the sheriff’s office saying that they intend to resentence four inmates they originally sentenced to boot camp, according to Frank Bilecki, an adviser to Dart.

Judges told sheriff’s officials that eight other inmates were sentenced properly and said they were continuing to review the sentences of two additional inmates, Bilecki said. The sheriff’s office is waiting for responses from the judges who sentenced the 38 other inmates to boot camp.

The letter follows a Sun-Times investigation that found judges have been sending hundreds of violent offenders to the boot camp — even though state law says the program is for nonviolent offenders.

The letter, sent last Tuesday, says the sheriff’s office is forming a new platoon of boot camp inmates. Dart asked the judges to confirm the inmates’ eligibility for the program by Friday.

Boot camp is designed to provide nonviolent offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves in a four-month military-style program, instead of going to prison. The inmates participate in job training and attend school. Many are in their late teens or early 20s, although the age limit is 35.

The law creating the boot camp says it wasn’t intended for violent offenders and explicitly bars murderers, rapists and Class X felons such as armed robbers from the program. A Class X felony carries a prison term of six to 30 years without the chance of probation.

Veteran prosecutors and judges have told the Sun-Times they believe legislators also intended to keep people convicted of “forcible felonies” out of boot camp. Sentences for those crimes, such as simple robbery and residential burglary, carry less prison time than a Class X offense — and probation is possible.

In response to Dart’s letter, judges have called his office saying they plan to resentence four teenage inmates: Jemarcus Haymon, 18, who pleaded guilty to aggravated battery; Daquel Martin, 17, who pleaded guilty to burglary; Isaiah Joseph, 18, who pleaded guilty to aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and Joshua Jones, 18, who pleaded guilty to residential burglary.

Judge Diane Cannon sentenced Haymon and Martin; Judge Nicholas Ford sentenced Joseph, and Judge John Joseph Hynes sentenced Jones, who also was sentenced to boot camp in an unrelated drug case.

In the past, the sheriff’s office checked whether inmates sentenced to boot camp were physically and mentally fit for the program but didn’t check whether their sentences were proper. Cara Smith, a top policy adviser to Dart, said the Sun-Times’ investigation and an internal review of the boot camp led the sheriff to start vetting the inmates’ sentences. Sheriff’s officials have screened 52 inmates’ sentences and think 35 of them are ineligible for boot camp, Smith said.

A Sun-Times review of thousands of pages of court records found that since 2006, judges have sentenced hundreds of violent felons to boot camp. Of them, 17 people convicted of armed robbery — a Class X felony — got such a break. Twelve of the armed robbers were arrested for new crimes after their release from the program. One is awaiting trial for another armed robbery. Another, Denzel Simons, is awaiting trial for allegedly killing a college student less than two years after Simons walked out of boot camp.

Cannon, who sentenced Simons to boot camp, acknowledged in an interview last month: “I am sure I have given sentences that were not the letter of the law,” later adding, “You got me.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.