Thompson said people forget that Ryan "was a very good governor." But he added that Ryan "is not bitter, he's not angry. He's accepting. This has been a long fight."

Ryan completed more than 5 years of a a 6 1/2-year prison sentence in Terre Haute, Ind. for a corruption conviction. Ryan entered prison on Nov. 7, 2007. His wife of more than 50 years, Lura Lynn, died of cancer in June 2011.

The halfway house, operated by the Salvation Army a few blocks east of the United Center, has been a way station for about 20,000 men and women since opening in 1975. Many corrupt Illinois politicians have finished their sentences at the facility. Among the most recent graduates was former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak.

Ryan's conviction for fraud, racketeering and other charges was the culmination of the federal Operation Safe Road investigation that exposed rampant bribery in state driver's license facilities while he was secretary of state as well as misdeeds as governor.

After a six-month trial, a federal jury convicted Ryan in 2006 of steering millions of dollars in state business to lobbyists and friends in return for vacations, gifts and other benefits to Ryan and his family.

The conviction overshadowed Ryan's long career in government.

The Kankakee native rose from speaker of the Illinois House to win statewide election as lieutenant governor, secretary of state and then one term as governor. His actions as governor included placing a moratorium on the death penalty and emptying death row, moves that won him international acclaim.

Thompson said Ryan may become involved in death penalty issues after his sentence ends in July. "It's way too soon to tell."

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