Daily Herald
Degorski's new life: Controlled, daunting, dangerous
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 10/20/2009 10:11 PM

Eighteen hours a day in a 7-by-10 cell with a roommate and one toilet.

This is life in prison.

A jury determined Tuesday that James Degorski will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing seven people in 1993 at a Palatine Brown's Chicken restaurant.

Degorski could be sent to one of four maximum security prisons in Illinois to serve that sentence. Accomplice Juan Luna, sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for his role in the slayings, is now in Joliet's legendary Stateville Correction Center.

Regardless of where he goes, though, Degorski's life is sure to be controlled, daunting and likely dangerous.

The 37-year-old will be allowed three showers a week, five hours of recreation a week and maybe a menial job. He will get no more than five periods for visitors a month. He will eat breakfast every morning in his cell and eat lunch and dinner in the cafeteria.

The atmosphere in prison is noisy, chaotic and dangerous, testified George DeTella, former assistant director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Since his arrest in 2002, Degorski has been serving time at the Cook County prison in Chicago. He has been a decent prisoner, officers testified during his trial.

Degorski did receive one infraction after failing to stand for a head count. He was found lying in the fetal position underneath his bunk, Department of Corrections Capt. Tyrone Everhart testified earlier this month.

While in jail, he has won special accommodations for good behavior. As a volunteer worker, he has been unshackled outside his cell for short periods to help clean up trays.

But Degorski will be in a new system when he leaves the county jail for state prison.

If Degorski becomes violent or disruptive, he could be transferred the state's supermax facility, where he would be confined in his cell for 23 hours day. If not, there is a small chance he could be moved to a medium-security prison after decades at his new maximum security home, DeTella told jurors before they deliberated on Degorski's sentence.

"It is not a life you would choose," said Assistant State's Attorney Tom Biesty while questioning DeTella on Monday. "But it is a life."