When will IDOC burst apart at the seams?

Posted: May 23, 2010 by lactoselazy in IDOC, Uncategorized

IDOC Early Release programs have been on hold since Quinn suspended them on December 30, 2009. IDOC facilities have been filling up since then with a lot of inmates who, at the time of their sentencing, expected to go home by now (because that is what they were and continue to be misled into believing by prosecutors and their own attorneys in order to get them to take plea deals) and who are still sitting there.

Inmates just arriving at IDOC tell us that prosecutors and attorneys today, still, inexcusably continue to lie to defendants by telling them that they will be eligible for good time credit which will shorten their IDOC time. There is a lot of frustration among these inmates who arrive at IDOC and do not understand what happened to the Early Release programs, why early release became a “political issue” in an election year, and why it were suspended. Once they arrive at IDOC, IDOC guards and counselors continue the charade. Inmates have been advised at the start of each month since January 2010 that early release is due to be reinstated shortly, by Feb 1st, March 1st, April 1st, May 1st, and now June 1st. Family members contacting IDOC and the governor’s office are being told the same thing. No one is being honest with the inmates and their families that no early release is guaranteed and that early release may not be acted upon until after the November election. Why not? Well, probably because IDOC realizes that a lot of inmates sitting around with time on their hands and no hope is not a good thing.

IDOC facilities are getting very over-crowded. IDOC staffing levels have not really increased that much; IDOC just appears to be moving staff around more, from one security-troubled facility to another. State legislators haven’t helped the situation. Instead of tackling the criteria for the Early Release programs during the past session, legislators ended the session with no action, and it is questionable whether they will even consider it again this fall. Republican legislators yelling about “getting tough’ on criminals and prosecutors who also want to imprison everybody and also want to ignore the realities of the limitations of the IDOC capacity to hold bodies aren’t making the situation any better.

IDOC is a powder keg waiting to go off with a bang. Question is: Do we have to wait till there is a riot (like California) or other serious event and another public relations fiasco before the legislators and Quinn take action and reduce the state’s prison population? How difficult is it anyway to agree on reasonable criteria for eligibility for early release; especially since most of it has already been fleshed out? The legislators and IDOC have no choice except to implement early release, to avoid lawsuits, because the inmates being most punished without are the small-time offenders, not the violent, long-term offenders who are unlikely to be eligible for early release anyway.

Various incidents have occurred at various IDOC facilities this year. AFSCME guards at the IL River Correctional Center went public this week detailing the dangerous situation in an informational picket at their facility as reported by the Peoria Journal-Star here. Note that the situation is still unresolved, in part because you can tell that they don’t even quite know what happened and where everything is. Neither are they satisfied that IDOC can back them up effectively.

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