By MICHAEL TARM
CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan is back at his longtime home today following his pre-dawn release from a Terre Haute federal prison after serving more than five years for corruption.
He first reported to a halfway house in Chicago, but, in a surprise, was allowed to go to his spacious home in Kankakee, his attorney Jim Thompson said. Speaking from Ryan’s living room, Thompson said Ryan was beaming and surrounded by his smiling grandchildren.
“If you could see his and his grandkids’ smiling faces,” Thompson, himself a former governor, said by phone from Ryan’s home. “He is surrounded by happy faces.”
Looking relaxed and thinner than before prison, Ryan walked past throngs of reporters into a Chicago halfway house earlier this morning.
Ryan, 78, left the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., five months before his prison term officially ended, having qualified for early release to the Salvation Army-run Freedom Center.
Wearing a gray business suit and tie, Ryan smiled faintly but didn’t speak to reporters as he walked into the red-bricked facility on the city’s West Side just before 7 a.m.
“Today is another step in a long journey for George Ryan,” Thompson told reporters after Ryan went inside.
Thompson said later that authorities decided that Ryan did not need the services the facility requires, which includes explaining how ex-cons can use a checkbook, he said.
Ryan was mostly quiet during the 200-mile drive from Indiana to Chicago, said Thompson, who accompanied him on the journey. They made a detour to Michigan Avenue to take in the Christmas lights still up along the city’s iconic shopping street, he said.
“He’s in decent spirits. It is such a stark change from penitentiary life,” Thompson said. “He has to become accustomed again to being on the outside.”
Ryan was sentenced to 6 1/2 years on Nov. 7, 2007, and his term officially ends July 4 after compiling 305 days credit for good conduct, said Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke.
— Associated Press