CHICAGO — The man accused of murdering a promising Columbia College student served just 10 months of an eight-year aggravated robbery sentence before being granted parole, DNAinfo.com Chicago has learned.
Jerome Brown, 26, was sentenced to an eight-year stint in January 2012, after serving six months in Cook County Jail. But by June 2012, he was in a boot camp-type program that is a path to early release, according to officials and prison records.
As part of Brown's sentencing, a judge ordered him to be considered for the Illinois Impact Incarceration Program, records show. Modeled after military boot camps, the program lets offenders who qualify reduce the amount of time they're locked up.
If successfully completed, boot camp can be an offender's ticket out of prison.
In October, four months after entering the program and just 10 months after being sentenced, Brown was released.
"Boot camp is a path to the final four months of prison time," Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said. "The eligibility (of offenders) is carefully evaluated by experienced IDOC personnel."
"We absolutely followed recommendation of the judge," he said.
Ebony Ambrose, the mother of slain 19-year-old Kevin Ambrose, was upset to hear Brown was released early.
"It makes no sense," she said. "What's the point of giving somebody time and then them not serving their time?"
"What did he do that made them feel like he was OK to be out on the streets again?"
In Brown's case, Shaer said staff "noted that this offender had been convicted of two crimes, neither of which was violent, and he exhibited no problematic behavior while in DOC facilities."
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has argued for stricter sentences for gun crimes, said this is a case where the system failed.
"I've been saying it for months, but we need to stem the flow of illegal guns to our communities and have stronger punishment for the criminals who use them," he said. "This is an example of someone who should not have been on the streets to commit murder."
When two men were charged in the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in February, McCarthy noted one of the suspects, Michael Ward, was on parole related to a gun charge.
Inmates are eligible for the program if they have no more than one past incarceration, and have not been convicted of various violent crimes, like murder. Brown had previously been convicted of a robbery. When he was charged with aggravated robbery in July 2011, a second charge of aggravated unlawful restraint was dropped, records show.
"IDOC interviews every candidate in detail and evaluates their actions to determine appropriateness of boot camp, just as it makes the final determination on whatever facility is best for each offender," said IDOC Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez. "Even a prime candidate for boot camp, according to the statute’s criteria, may not actually be placed in boot camp if the department’s experienced personnel feel it is not the best place for that particular offender."
When Brown was released, he'd spent less time incarcerated for the aggravated robbery than he did for a 2007 burglary charge for which he served 11 months, records show.
Corrections department officials continued to monitor Brown when he was paroled, and Shaer said Brown had successfully completed a 90-day electronic monitoring program.
On Friday, Brown was charged in the death of Kevin Ambrose, a theater student at Columbia College, who was killed after Brown allegedly chased and shot him near a Bronzeville "L" stop Tuesday.
Ambrose was walking to the 47th Street Green Line Station Tuesday night to meet a friend so that the friend wouldn't have to walk the short distance from the train to Ambrose's home alone, friends and family said.
As Ambrose, 19, was walking to the station, Brown drove up and got out of a light-colored sedan before grabbing a handgun from the trunk, Assistant State's Attorney Jackie Kwilos said.
Brown spotted Ambrose and started chasing him, leaving him "running for his life," Kwilos said.
After Brown shot Ambrose multiple times in his back, Ambrose continued running until he collapsed in an alley, authorities said.
A judge ordered Brown held without bail during a hearing Friday.
Mark Konkol and Quinn Ford contributed reporting.