After serving three years of a nearly seven-year prison sentence, former Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke has been released from prison. His sentence included two years of supervised visits, which is the equivalent of parol for the state. Thursday morning, a spokeswoman for Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, Jordan Abudayyeh, confirmed that Van Dyke had been released. No further details have been provided.
Van Dyke was released from the Taylorville Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in central Illinois, about 30 miles south of Springfield.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a statement Thursday morning before Van Dyke’s release.
“I know some Chicagoans remain disheartened and angry about Jason Van Dyke’s sentence for the murder of Laquan McDonald. As I said at the time, while the jury reached the correct guilty verdict, the judge’s decision to sentence Van Dyke to only 81 months was and remains a supreme disappointment. I understand why this continues to feel like a miscarriage of justice, especially when many Black and brown men get sentenced to so much more prison time for having committed far lesser crimes. It’s these distortions in the criminal justice system, historically, that have made it so hard to build trust,” Lightfoot said. “While I know this moment is disappointing, it should not prevent us from seeing the significant progress Van Dyke’s prosecution and conviction represent. He was the first officer in more than half a century to be convicted of a crime committed purportedly in the line of duty. This prosecution led to historic reforms, including comprehensive legislation that created the first-ever community police oversight body in Chicago, and a consent decree to oversee CPD reform. There is much more work to do, and it is by doing that work that we can heal from this and move forward towards justice and accountability every day.”
Van Dyke was convicted in 2018 for the murder of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American, who was shot 16 times. The shooting was caught on a dashboard camera and soon went viral.
Chicago activists were outraged by the early release of Van Dyke. Federal officials were called on to file civil rights charges against the former police officer.
Van Dyke’s release was not a surprise. Illinois rules give credit to prisoners for good behavior. The 81-month sentence was criticized by those who felt the sentence was too short.
However, Rev. Marvin Hunter, the great-uncle of McDonald, said he would not participate in a demonstration planned for Thursday, nor will he protest the release of Van Dyke.
“Justice, in our eyesight, was getting a conviction,” he said. “It wouldn’t benefit anyone in this country for Jason Van Dyke to go back to jail and get 100 years or 1,000 years.”
Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. He received one count for each bullet discharged. Van Dyke was the first police officer in Chicago convicted of murder in nearly five decades.
Van Dyke was only sentenced by Judge Gaughan on the murder count. A longer prison sentence could have resulted from the aggravated battery charges.
Executive Director, Cara Hendrickson of BPI Chicago, a nonprofit law and policy center, said Van Dyke’s release raises questions about policy and change in law enforcement.
“The release of Jason Van Dyke is really causing all of us to ask questions about justice and accountability,” she said.