One of our local newspapers recently decried the granting of compassionate leave of two hours to former Illinois Governor George Ryan to visit his critically ill wife, thought to be dying. The editorial criticized the action as flouting justice and being unfair to the victims of Ryan’s crimes.
Granted, Ryan’s crimes were heinous, and it is appropriate that he has been convicted and is serving time for those crimes.
However, the warden’s decision to release Ryan for two hours to visit his critically ill wife was compassionate and appropriate. The trial, conviction and incarceration of Ryan all were based on logic, as they should have been. However, the warden’s compassionate act does not diminish the seriousness of Ryan’s crimes and does not make the state’s response in incarcerating him any less valid.
Compassionate acts, which often are drowned out in our increasingly noisy, impersonal world, are little grace notes for civilization. We need those little reminders of who we are and what is expected of us as human beings and as brothers and sisters of Christ.
I am grateful for the warden’s granting compassionate leave to a convicted felon. His compassion didn’t forgive the crime; it just acknowledged our humanity.