A Latter-day Altgeld?

Maybe it’s in the water.  Another governor has stood up to the unjust judicial system in illinois and has pardoned and released a number of obviously innocent prison inmates.  Those who were freed were jailed after false confessions were tortured out of them by police and were not only wrongly imprisoned, but were awaiting execution, as well.  In addition to these pardons, George Ryan commuted the sentences of all others on death row in his state, a total of 167 people.

The last time multiple pardons by an illinois governor merited such widespread attention was in 1893, when John Peter Altgeld pardoned the three imprisoned survivors among the eight anarchists convicted of conspiracy to murder cops during the 1886 police riot at Haymarket Square in Chicago.  Four of the others were killed by the state in 1887, while one killed himself to avoid hanging by the government he detested.

While many thousands of other innocent people remain behind bars all over the united states, and all but three of those who received sentence commutations last month will likely never be released from prison, Ryan’s actions are to be commended as a rare display of humanity on the part of a politician and a small step towards the abolition of the death penalty.  While anarchists oppose not only executions, but the very existence of prisons and the “justice” system of which they are an important part, any time someone is freed from the clutches of the state or a prisoner’s life is spared is cause for celebration.

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