IDOC Early Release Makes Sense!

Posted: October 16, 2009 by smallmouth63 in IDOC, Local Issues

Benefits outweigh risks of early prison release

Beginning in less than two weeks, some 1,000 convicted felons will be sprung early from Illinois prisons and returned to their old towns and neighborhoods.

Be not afraid.

Whenever a state or county releases inmates early to save money — undoubtedly a factor here — people get nervous. The fear is that public safety is being compromised to save a buck.

But this particular early-release program appears well-designed to minimize the risk to the public, and in fact, it is intended to improve public safety in the long run by doing a better job of rehabilitating ex-offenders.

We point this out now because, inevitably, some significant number of these 1,000 inmates will screw up again. They will commit another low-level crime or violate the conditions of their early release and get tossed right back into prison. Given a prison recidivism rate in Illinois of about 50 percent, that’s going to happen.

And when it does, Gov. Quinn, although he did the right thing by signing off on this early-release program, likely will be skewered by his political opponents and many in the media.

Consider this editorial to be a vaccination against such future attacks.

Quinn’s early-release program, designed by his new director of the Department of Corrections, Michael Randle, is in keeping with a national trend. Exploding prison populations are blowing holes in state budgets, even as research indicates that low-level nonviolent offenders are more likely to turn their lives around if they are spared prison and treated in their home communities.

Other states pushing early release efforts include Michigan, Texas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York and Ohio.

Critical to the success of the Illinois program is the cautious selection of inmates, from a total adult prison population of about 45,000, who safely can be released early.

Randle and his staff, who are still making their final selections, have excluded all inmates convicted of sex offenses or crimes against a person, such as robbery or assault. They have excluded inmates who committed even a technical violation of an earlier parole.

Most of the inmates still under consideration have been convicted only of low-level drug violations or theft. Inmates convicted of burglary of a commercial property are eligible, but not those convicted of residential burglary. And Randle is conducting a 10-year “look-back” at each eligible inmate’s criminal history, even reading pre-sentencing reports.

Perhaps most significant, only inmates who have less than a year left to serve on their sentence are eligible, meaning they are sure to be released soon enough anyway.

Those released early will be assigned a parole agent, required to wear an electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet and — quite typically — enrolled in a drug treatment program.

It is that opportunity to provide better treatment services to an offender in the community, rather than the annual savings to the state of $5 million, that makes the early-release program smart, Randle says. Providing the same services to low-level offenders in prison, he said, is difficult because they come and go so quickly.

On average, Randle said, an offender sentenced to a year of incarceration actually serves only 63 days in a state prison. He typically serves most of his sentence — reduced for “good time” and the like — in a county jail and a prison inmate processing center.

One of the ironies of hard times is that they create opportunities for governments, after years of political pandering, to do what’s right.

Case in point is prison reform, where tight budgets are forcing even the most law-and-order states, such as Texas, to reverse a mindless policy of locking up ever more people in ever more prisons.

The money’s just not there anymore.

If only for the sake of the Illinois taxpayer — who shelled out $1.5 billion for prisons last year — we hope Quinn’s early-release program is the first step in a far more ambitious effort to reduce the state’s bloated prison population.

October 13, 2009, Chicago Sun-Times commentary, at:

www.suntimes.com/news/commentary/1821093,CST-EDT-edit13.article

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Comments
  1. […] IDOC Early Release Makes Sense! RichardWanke.Com – PeopleRank: 7 – October 16, 2009 …Michael Randle, is in keeping with a national trend. Exploding prison populations are blowing holes in state budgets, even as research indicates that low-level nonviolent offenders are more likely to turn their lives around if they are spared prison and… + vote […]

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  2. patty says:

    Hi people, I would like to take a moment and reply on this: I’m one of the 1,000 inmates released from and illinois correctional center last month dec. 8 2009.
    I think it is a wonderful thing they did by releasing me 5 months early then my actual date. To let you all know i dont have a volient crime that i have to stay longer, i did about 68% of my time in the prison system and 13 months away from my children and now I’m home just in time to take care of my mother who is dying here at home of cancer that spread through out her intire body. I find no reason to fall back into my old ways thats not the life style i want for my children nor me and more. I have a very great support system who helps me out in anyway they can. i make meeting over the phone for a ca or na even aa. it’s great to be home and spend every moment with my family and very close friends who are behind me 500% all the way. thanks for reading my reply.

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  3. Judy says:

    Patty,
    Congradulations on being let go early! I hope we release a lot more prisoners early. I know a lot of people in jail and prison who are not helped by being there. A lot of people think everyone should be shut up, but they don’t know that it is too easy to get to prison when you never thought that you would be there. Lots of people there for small and stupid things. And too, just like you. Your family suffers because of what you have to go through before you get to prison. They suffer from their health and from losing you, and from the money it costs everyone. They have burdens to get because of looking after your stuff and children and they aren’t asked if they can help; it is just necessary. So, the cost of someone being in jail is huge and you have to ask, is it worth it? It is only worth it for violent people who cannot live outside. Everyone else already pays in just being found guilty or having to plead. Times are tough now and everyone needs all the help you can get. Prison helps no one like they really need. I hope everything works out for you! Bless you!

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  4. melissa says:

    i believe this early release program is a wonderful thing but at the same time very confusing… if someone who know alot about could contact me at melissapoore@yahoo.com and answer some questions for me it would be very appreciated.

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