Rockford, Illinois News

Convicted child rapist asks for early release after serving fraction of prison sentence

ROCKFORD– A Roscoe woman serving 7 1/2 years in prison for sexually assaulting two boys is set to go in front of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board with hopes she’ll be released after serving only 17 months.

Gina Colwell, 42, was sentenced Oct. 2, 2019, after pleading guilty to predatory criminal sexual assault in a case involving a 12-year-old boy and 48 months of sex-offender probation for aggravated criminal sexual abuse in a case involving a 13-year-old boy.

Before accepting a plea agreement, Colwell stood accused of having multiple sexual encounters with the 12-year-old boy between Nov. 24, 2014, and Feb. 20, 2016. She sexually assaulted the 13-year-old between Dec. 31, 2015, and Jan. 1, 2016.

Now, less than two years after Judge Brendan Maher sentenced her, Colwell has been granted an executive clemency hearing, which could happen between July 13 and July 15. And while it is common for prisoners to apply for clemency, that she was granted a hearing came as a shock to the victims’ families.

“I was told in October 2020 that she was attempting to request this hearing,” said Jennifer Bock, the 12-year-old victim’s mother. “I tried not to think about it because it felt incomprehensible. And I was told the chances of her getting the hearing granted were slim to none. I didn’t believe that she would actually get it granted.”

Bock said several people have already written letters to the board, asking that Colwell be locked up for the remainder of her sentence. She said whatever hardships she is experiencing behind bars can be addressed by the Illinois Department of Corrections; early release shouldn’t be part of the conversation.

“Our judicial system feels like such a joke to me,” she said. “We went through 3 1/2 years of hell just to get her sentenced. Now, I have to fight to keep a convicted predator in prison.”

An online petition to keep Colwell in prison has close to 5,000 signatures.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Colwell isn’t eligible for parole until Jan. 14, 2026, namely because predatory criminal sexual assault comes with a mandatory prison sentence of six years. That means to get an early release before her projected parole date, she needs two things: a recommendation from the prison review board and clemency from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

A prisoner applying for executive clemency must submit a detailed petition with supporting material. A petition must include a list of current offenses, complete criminal background, narrative biography and reasons for seeking clemency. A petitioner must also declare, under penalty of perjury, that information submitted is truthful and accurate.