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UPDATED: 7/3/2013 – 3:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Gov. George Ryan officially became a free man today, a day earlier than expected.
Ryan, 79, was released from home confinement a day early, because his original release date was set for the July 4 holiday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan returned to his home in Kankakee with his son, Homer.
“I feel wonderful and I am glad to be home,” Ryan said. “There is no place like home, especially in America.
“Freedom is a great thing and I finally got mine back.”
He said he was looking forward to spending time with his family and possibly giving speeches on his opposition to the death penalty. While governor, Ryan emptied Death Row after concerns about wrongful convictions in capital cases in Illinois.
“I am still trying to get acclimated. I have only been home for about five months.”
Ryan had spent about five years in federal prison, before he was placed on home confinement in January to complete his sentence on corruption charges.
He was officially released from federal custody on Wednesday morning, around 7:30 a.m., after filling out paperwork at a Salvation Army halfway house on the Near West Side.
“He’s happy to be moving on with his life, and put this part of his life behind him,” said Bob Ciulla, the operations manager at the Salvation Army halfway house. “He was very appreciative of everything, the support that staff here gave him, and he’s just very happy to put this behind him, and move on with his life.”
Ryan started his sentence at a prison camp in Oxford, Wis., and was later moved to a medium security prison in Terre Haute, Ind., after Oxford stopped holding inmates over the age of 70.
While Ryan was in prison, his wife Lura Lynn died after a long battle with lung cancer.
The former governor spent a short time at the halfway house after he left prison in late January, but was soon informed he would complete his sentence on home confinement at his house in Kankakee.
Ryan was allowed to occasionally leave his house over the past six months, with permission from federal authorities.
He was allowed weekend leaves, but was only allowed to go to public places, not someone else’s home, and not a bar or tavern. He also had a curfew while on home confinement.
Peter Pagast, a Kankakee neighbor of Ryan’s, said he’s glad to see the former governor go free for good.
“I think this is great. It’s just unfortunate that this had to happen. It took so long; his wife dying,” Pagast said. “He deserves it, and it’s great, because he can live a normal life, and go wherever he wants to, and that’s what he deserves.”
He still has to serve a year of supervised release, so has to periodically report to a parole officer.