Review of IDOC early release custody policy

Posted: December 17, 2009 by smallmouth63 in IDOC

Read most current information regarding status of  IDOC  Early Release & Good Time Credits here

Quinn Says He Knew About Prison Release Program

But He Wouldn’t Say Whether He Knew It Would Include Violent Criminals

By JOHN O’CONNOR, AP Political Writer

Dec 16, 2009 8:01 pm US/Central


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn now says he knew ahead of time that his prison system planned to release inmates early but wouldn’t say whether he was aware it meant some violent criminals would get out after just a few days behind bars.

The Chicago Democrat wouldn’t explain Wednesday why he halted Corrections Director Michael Randle’s practice after The Associated Press reported that hundreds of inmates — including some convicted of domestic battery and weapons charges — got out early.

Quinn suspended the program Sunday after seeing the AP report, and initially would not say whether he was informed of a secret change in custody policy before it began in September. Now he says not only did he know, Randle publicized it.

“The plan I heard from Director Randle, I want to make sure it’s carried out where public safety is the paramount consideration,” Quinn told reporters in his Capitol office. “I’d rather have a careful review, from top to bottom, than just carry on.”

That examination, by Randle and Quinn chief of staff Jerome Stermer, will be completed in “a short period of time,” the governor said.

The AP reported that more than 850 offenders have been released early since September after Corrections secretly dropped a policy — the agency says it was informal — requiring everyone to serve at least 61 days before becoming eligible for good-conduct time off.

With the minimum-stay rule gone and close to the maximum of six months of meritorious good time being awarded as soon as inmates walked in the gate, many qualified for release almost immediately.

The AP report prompted the review, Quinn said, but he wouldn’t specifically say what concerned him about the policy change. On Monday, he suggested he was not informed of it, saying Randle has “broad discretion” to run the prisons but that it’s his duty to review actions that need questioning.

The apparent change in Quinn’s explanation brought a sharp retort Wednesday from state comptroller Dan Hynes, who is challenging the governor in February’s Democratic primary election. Hynes spokesman Matt McGrath blasted Quinn’s “bumbling response and verbal contortions.”

Hynes challenged the governor to publish a list of all prisoners released under the program, their crimes, the rationale for release and where they’re now living.

“To continue to stonewall and hide behind a forthcoming report is an unacceptable risk to public safety,” McGrath said.

The practice is separate from an early release program for 1,000 inmates Quinn announced in September to ease the budget crunch. In that plan, he promised no one convicted of violent offenses would get out early.

But the AP found that in the unpublicized plan, prisoners convicted of domestic battery, aggravated unlawful weapons use, and aggravated driving under the influence in which someone was hurt, have been released in fewer than three weeks total on a yearlong sentence.

The disclosure angered prosecutors and lawmakers who said the public expects convicts to serve their sentences, but also prompted a discussion about the wisdom of prison sentences of little more than a year for nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession.

The agency was saving money by not transferring inmates from the receiving center at Stateville prison in Joliet to other prisons for short stints. Quinn has not criticized Randle, whom he hired in May, and stressed the role the state budget mess plays.

“We have to deal with the fact that Illinois is in a fiscal crisis,” Quinn said. “I’m not going to sacrifice public safety at any time for any kind of economic consideration. But we have to have a balance here, where we carry out the duty of the Department of Corrections properly for the public.”

He disputed the notion that the policy change was “secret.” He said Randle traveled the state, explaining the idea to newspaper editorial boards. But the administration wasn’t able to provide any examples of Randle publicly conceding that inmates would get out earlier than before.

And under questioning by the AP, Corrections did not initially acknowledge abandoning the 61-day rule or that anyone was spending less time behind bars.

The governor says his Corrections director had told him about the plan, which includes dropping a policy of requiring that all inmates serve at least 61 days in prison. That change makes some inmates eligible for release almost as soon as they arrive in prison.

  1. Hazel Church says:

    This sounds remarkably like the U of I scandal in which early admissions were granted to those maybe not qualified but with the right connection clout or prestige. Weren’t those board members fired? So who determined who was to be released and what criteria was used. Is this the mark of reform for Quinn’s tenure? What about mine or anyone elses loved one who is serving for a NONVIOLENT offense? Why didn’t they get moved to the front of the line? Maybe not the right name or connections.


  2. TT says:

    I think you should let the one’s out early is the one’s that don’t have a violent background and has gone through treatment for a while.


  3. sheila altom says:

    is the good time coming back at the first of the year.


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