It's time to look at our parole system

Every year violent criminals are granted parole only to stalk innocent victims again. Photo: AP Photo

John L. Wilson spent 17 of the past twenty years in prison.  In 1991 he was convicted for selling drugs and driving a stolen vehicle.  He was sentenced to five years in prison.  In 1993 he was released on parole. 

That same year, while on parole, he is arrested for possession of narcotics.  While out on bond for those charges, he is arrested for carjacking a vehicle with a gun.  He is sentenced to eight years in prison for both cases in 1994. 

In 2001, while in prison, Wilson is convicted of the aggravated battery of a prison guard.  In 2002, he is paroled again.  He is arrested again for a violent purse snatching and sentenced to eleven years in prison in 2003. 

John L. Wilson was paroled again in November of 2010.  From all appearances John L. Wilson is a predicate violent felon.  Family members claim he suffers from mental problems.  Wilson is the new poster boy for the revolving door of our inept parole system. 

On October 27th, 14 year old Kelli O’Laughlin returned home from school.  She lived in the quiet, tree lined Chicago Suburb of Indian Head Park.  She opened the door and interrupted John L. Wilson while he was burglarizing the home.  Mr. Wilson allegedly grabbed a carving knife and brutally stabbed the teen aged girl several times and then dragged her body into the kitchen.

He fled with whatever he stole and her cell phone. 

Kelli’s mother found the body with the knife laying next to it.  Within hours she started to receive what are described as disturbing text messages from the girl’s cell phone. 

“Even the most experienced investigators and prosecutors have been brought to tears by the very facts of this case and the chilling nature of this case,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said moments after a judge ordered Wilson held without bond. 

“A horrific crime was committed (and) then to have the mother of the victim being subjected to taunts from the person who did this, words cannot describe that,” Sheriff Tom Dart said. (Fox News Chicago) 

This crime is just one of many committed every year by predicate violent felons out on parole.  There is something very wrong with a parole system that is nothing more than a revolving door for violent criminals. 

There is something wrong with a system that cannot identify predicate violent criminals and deny them parole.  Parole is not a right.  It is a privilege.  Supposedly it is granted for a prisoner’s model behavior and their regret and remorse for committing their crimes and their supposed rehabilitation. 

In the multitude of cases like Mr. Wilson, the system proves it fails.  After his second violent crime, Mr. Wilson should never have been eligible for parole.  He should have been forced to serve his whole sentence.  The same with his third violent crime. 

If, as his family claims, he is mentally ill, that should have been recognized and he should have received treatment.  The prison system is loaded with psychologists and psychiatrists.  Personnel are specifically trained to detect mental problems in inmates, report them, and the system is supposed to treat them. 

Our prison, probation, and parole systems are failing us.  They are nothing but a recycling operation.  Violent criminals are released early only to commit more violent crimes, to be sent back to prison, only to qualify for parole again.   

Until they finally murder someone.  When the headlines die down, and people like Mr. Wilson finally get their just due, another predicate violent felon will rear his evil head. 

For decades there have been groups advocating for prison reform.  Seeking more humane treatment for inmates.  Yet, every time parole or probation reform is brought up, it is swept underneath the carpet.  It is the third rail of the penal system.  Never to be touched or mentioned. 

How many more people have to die or be seriously injured by predicate violent felons?  How many more families have to suffer because parole and probation boards are callous to society and sympathetic to criminals? 

Since the parole system is so severely flawed and protected, maybe it is time to impose mandatory sentencing for all violent crimes.  There should be no probation or parole for any violent crime.  There should definitely be no parole for people who were paroled once, and then went on to commit further violent crimes.   

If you are sentenced to five years, you do five years.  Ten years means ten years.  Life means life.  If you were rewarded with parole once and reverted to your violent life of crime, you should be slammed even harder. 

We may not be able to prevent crimes, especially horrific crimes, from being committed, but we can see to it that the criminals are suitably punished and ostracized from society. 

Society and government must finally recognize that evil exists.  It exists in human form.  Evil must not be continually rewarded with probation or parole just because. 

Even better, maybe it is time to dismantle the parole system altogether.  Just sentence all criminals and let them do their time.  Every single day of it.  


Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance writer, freelance photographer, and consultant.  He is a passionate cook and eater.  He likes to be the sharp stick that pokes, annoys, and provokes.  His opinions are his and his alone.  







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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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