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updated: 1/21/2013 7:48 AM

George Ryan to leave federal prison Jan. 30

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  • Former Gov. George Ryan

      Former Gov. George Ryan

 
By Kerry Lester
Political Editor
klester@dailyherald.com

After spending five years in prison on corruption charges, former Gov. George Ryan is scheduled to be released to a Chicago halfway house on Jan. 30.

A longtime former aide for the Kankakee Republican tells the Daily Herald that the halfway house is located in Chicago's Greektown neighborhood, and is the same Salvation Army Freedom Center that housed former Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak in 2011, and former Ryan Chief of Staff, Scott Fawell, in 2008.

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Vrdolyak, a Chicago Democrat, was released there after serving 10 months in prison for his role in a kickback scheme. Fawell was convicted in the same corruption scheme as Ryan, and spent 4 1/2 years in prison.

Once he is at the halfway house, Ryan, 78, will be required to work, as he transitions back to freedom. Several friends are expected to offer Ryan jobs, the aide said.

Ryan, who served one term as governor ending in 2003, earned a reputation as a shrewd dealmaker during his decades in state government. But corruption charges stemming largely from his time in the 1990s as secretary of state landed him in federal prison.

Still, Ryan remains lauded by some for his historic decision to clear the state's death row, and a University of Illinois professor has nominated him regularly for a Nobel Peace Prize, including this year.

His legal trouble helped inspire the strong ethics pledges in the first campaign of his successor, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who himself later was sentenced to a 14-year term in federal prison for corruption.

Since Ryan began his sentence, his wife of 55 years, Lura Lynn, died of cancer, and the Illinois Supreme Court upheld an effort to take away his state pension.

Ryan's formal release date is July 4. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not commenting on Ryan's move.

Fawell, now of Buffalo Grove, described the Salvation Army facility as "kind of dingy, kind of dirty." Ryan's first few days, he said, will be spent in a halfway house orientation program, where his banking, computer and resume writing skills will be refreshed.

After beginning a job, Ryan will be required to be back at the facility by 7 p.m. each night, Fawell said. The halfway house will take 25 percent of each paycheck.

Small freedoms -- wearing his own clothes and keeping money in his wallet -- likely will seem like luxuries to Ryan initially, Fawell said.

Still, he added, it's not an easy place to live.

"This is no camp," Fawell said, referring to Ryan's time at the federal prison work camp in Terre Haute, Ind. "You could be living next to some guy that just got (served) 35 years. The interaction ... is worlds apart."

• State government writer Mike Riopell contributed to this sreport.

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