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Gov. Ryan Qualifies For Early Work Release

George Ryan

Former Gov. George Ryan addresses reporters the night before he left for prison. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATE: 8/9/2012 – 6:01 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan will be released from prison five months early, having qualified for work release.

Former Gov. James Thompson, who represents Ryan, said Ryan had qualified for work release five months before his parole date of July 4, 2013.

Once he is out of prison at the end of January, Ryan’s new home likely will be the Salvation Army Freedom Center, a halfway house at 105 S. Ashland Av. He will go to work during the day, and return the halfway house the rest of the time.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

“He is slated for the work-release program, I think at the Salvation Army in Chicago, starting Jan. 30,” Thompson told WBBM Newsradio.

Thompson said Ryan is looking forward to eventually going back to his family.

“He’s grateful for the chance to be in the program and is looking forward to it. He’s also looking forward to the end of his term in July.”

As far as what kind of work Ryan will do, that’s not determined yet.

Before politics, Ryan was a pharmacist, but Thompson says, as you might expect, Ryan doesn’t have a pharmacist’s license anymore.

The Salvation Army Freedom Center is the same halfway house former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese called home for two-and-a-half weeks while looking for a place to live after she got out of prison.

Maltese said the halfway house where Ryan will stay might be called “Freedom Center,” but it’s far from free.

“To me it wasn’t. Of course things change on a daily basis, but, I mean you’re still under the thumb because, you’re still, I’d say, in federal custody. … I mean, you’re locked in, you have to have permission for any movement.”

Loren-Maltese spent her time at the Salvation Army Freedom Center after completing 6 ½ years in prison, then six months in a halfway house in Nevada.

She was convicted of racketeering, wire fraud and mail fraud charges for her role in bilking Cicero taxpayers out of $12 million in a mob-related insurance scam.

Loren-Maltese said Illinois’ former Gov. George Ryan may find it difficult to transition to life here.

“I think people like George and (former Chicago alderman Ed) Vrdolyak and people that have always had, maybe a little more gifted as far as monetary things, they find it harder,” she said. “If you don’t relate to the general population, you just will not do well.”

She said those who live at the halfway house share a communal kitchen, communal bathroom, and have very modest rooms. She said the former governor will also have to follow a lot of rules.

“A friend had picked me up to look at different places to stayl, and we had stopped for lunch. Well I got what’s called a shot, a write up, because I did not request permission to stop for lunch,” she said.

Loren-Maltese said repercussions for not following the rules could range from denial of visits, to not being able to leave the center at all.

On Monday, a federal court denied Ryan’s latest appeal seeking early release. In their latest appeal, Ryan’s attorneys had challenged his mail fraud convictions under the so-called “honest services” statute, arguing federal prosecutors failed to prove the former governor took any bribes.

After another look at Ryan’s case, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit disagreed, and again rejected Ryan’s appeal of his conviction.

A Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman would not confirm Ryan’s work release date, citing a “security issue.”

Ryan, 78, is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for corruption. He is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

As for life after prison for Loren-Maltese, she’s hosting an internet radio show.

She’s also working on a book and screenplay for a movie about her life.