Quinn: Ill. prison officials lacked authority to pick up parolee suspected in other crimes

Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that prison officials lacked the authority to pick up a paroled burglar who was suspected in an aggravated battery last winter and had lied about being interviewed by police.

Quinn said Corrections Department parole officials could not apprehend Darrell Bracey because a warrant had not been issued for his arrest.

Internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, however, indicate that even after officials were told a warrant had been issued, they waited 10 additional days to go looking for Bracey. That was after they learned he was a suspect in an alleged criminal sexual assault and had been charged with another battery.

Bracey was one of 1,745 inmates released early last year as part of a secret program known as "MGT Push." Ex-cons on parole must follow rules and can go back to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences for not complying.

More than 1,000 MGT Push parolees went back behind bars for not abiding by the rules; most were returned without warrants charging them with crimes.

The AP reported earlier this week that Corrections passed up several opportunities to send Bracey, who was released in September 2009, back to prison — including after Naperville police reported that he had "basically confessed" to aggravated battery.

"There was no warrant issued," Quinn said Wednesday. "Warrants are absolutely required for the Department of Corrections to pull someone back into prison with respect to what you're talking about."

He did not say why even after Corrections was told a warrant was issued, officials waited more than a week to act.

Nearly three-fifths of MGT Push parolees have been returned to prison for reasons ranging from being convicted of a new crime to minor infractions such as leaving home without permission, skipping a daily check-in call and having empty beer cans in the house.

Most were returned after the Quinn administration, which halted early release Dec. 30 after an AP report, started a crackdown Jan. 6 on MGT Push parolees to ensure "intensive compliance" with the rules.

Naperville police told parole agents on Dec. 2 that Bracey was suspected in an aggravated battery that left a victim with eight stitches in his head, according to internal Corrections documents. Bracey has since pleaded guilty to that offense and is serving a new 2 1/2-year sentence.

On Jan. 7, police reported to Corrections that Bracey had confessed to the crime. On Jan. 9, in a face-to-face meeting with parole officers, Bracey allegedly lied repeatedly before finally admitting he had been interviewed by police, the documents show.

Lying is itself a parole violation that could have gotten Bracey locked back up, particularly because he had already been given two verbal reprimands for infractions the previous fall. Instead, Corrections imposed a nighttime curfew.

An arrest warrant for the battery was issued three days later, on Jan. 12, and the internal documents indicate Bracey's parole agent got a call from Naperville police advising him of that.

But Corrections didn't act until days after learning Jan. 18 from Naperville police that Bracey was the suspect in the alleged criminal sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl that occurred Jan. 4, according to the internal documents. That prompted the parole agent to look up Bracey's criminal background and he learned Bracey had been charged that day with misdemeanor battery stemming from a Jan. 17 incident in DeKalb County.

Will County officials have not pursued charges against Bracey in the alleged rape because prosecutors say the girl's family is not cooperating.

Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said in August the investigation was complete and that she could not comment on disciplinary action taken. Pressed further, she said then that no one had been disciplined and that Corrections had made no errors.

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Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills in Chicago contributed to this report.