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UPDATED: 1/30/2013 – 4:55 p.m.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Former Gov. George Ryan left the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., early Wednesday morning, and will spend the rest of his sentence under home confinement at his house in Kankakee.
Ryan left the federal prison camp under cover of darkness at 1 a.m. Wednesday. He arrived for a short stay at a halfway house in Chicago, and CBS has confirmed Ryan has now returned to his home to complete the final six months of his sentence there.
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Former Gov. Jim Thompson told CBS 2 that Ryan was at his home, spending time with his family.
“I am looking at him now in his living room,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of happy faces here.”
Family members burst at the seams with joy at the Ryan home in Kankakee, as his children and grandchildren gathered all day to visit him.
“He can’t get a word in edgewise there, because they’re talking to him,” Thompson said. “They’ve got all sorts of stuff to tell him after 5 ½ years.”
Many federal prisoners, including several high-profile politicians, have spent their final months at a halfway house before being released from custody. However, prisoners also can qualify for home confinement at the end of their term.
Thompson said there was no special treatment for Ryan in the decision to place him on home confinement, rather than have him stay at a halfway house. He said Ryan did not need many of the services that a halfway house provides to ex-cons.
“They teach people how to write checks, how to construct a resume, how to look for a job,” Thompson said. “There’s no point in his taking up room in a halfway house, and denying that to somebody else, if he doesn’t need the services and they do.”
Ryan will be under curfew, and he cannot leave his home unless he gets written permission from the Bureau of Federal Prisons. Thompson said Ryan is suffering from a cold and also needs to be treated from some dental issues.
Thompson said he also suspects Ryan’s age was a factor in allowing him to go into home confinement, rather than the halfway house.
Thompson said Ryan learned that he was being placed under home confinement after he arrived at the halfway house. Thompson said Ryan’s legal team did not make the request. Ryan will not be under electronic monitoring.
“When you leave a federal penitentiary, you’re sent either to a halfway house or to home confinement,” Thompson said. “Home confinement’s a regular program of the Bureau of Prisons, just like a halfway house, because they can’t fit everybody in a halfway house.”
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Wearing a suit and tie and appearing much thinner, Ryan, 78, arrived at the halfway house on Wednesday morning around 6:45 a.m. and walked across a parking lot before entering the facility. He did not speak with reporters. Ryan was with Thompson, who had represented him during the trial, and his son, Homer.
“Today is another step in a long journey for George Ryan,” Thomspon told reporters. “He would like me to tell you that he is grateful to leave the penitentiary. He’s grateful also for the support he has received from many people.
“He has paid a severe price, including the loss of his wife and brother, as well has loss of his pension and his good name,” Thompson said.
“He is going to go forward with his life the best he can.”
Thompson said the former governor drove up Michigan Avenue and took note of the lights still up from the holidays. He also joked that Ryan tied his own necktie this morning, adding “he hadn’t forgotten how to do that.”
After spending a short time at the halfway house, Ryan left for his home in Kankakee.
It was Ryan’s first day at home without his wife, Lura Lynn Ryan, who died in 2011 while he was in prison.
“I imagine it’s very hard, just as I imagine it’s been very hard ever since she died, and very hard ever since he left her,” Thompson said.
Prison officials allowed Ryan to visit his ailing wife a few times before her death, but he could not go to her funeral.
While in prison, Ryan also lost his brother, Tom; his state pension was taken away due to his conviction; and he’s reportedly been battling health problems of his own.
As well wishes arrived at his home in Kankakee on Wednesday, friends stopped by to show support for the former governor now that he’s out of prison.
“I think it really was a good thing that they released him, and I know he’s proud to be home,” said Kankakee Alderman James Stokes Jr.
Thompson said it is likely Ryan will eventually get involved with efforts to abolish the death penalty across the nation. While he was governor, Ryan imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois.
Just days before leaving office, he pardoned four death row inmates who had alleged they were tortured by police. At the time, Ryan said he believed the men were innocent. He also emptied out death row, by commuting every inmate’s sentence to life in prison.
Always defiant, Ryan’s attempts to appeal his convictions failed. His prison days are over, but he won’t be entirely free of federal custody until July.