Republicans Still Trying to Make IDOC “Early Release” into a Fake Political Issue for Nov. Election

Posted: August 12, 2010 by mikethemouth in IDOC

The public should be aware that the Republicans is once again trying to manipulate public sentiment against “crime” and “criminals” into a political issue to gain votes for Republicans in the November election. At the start of 2010, the Republicans called publicly for legislative hearings to investigate the conduct of the IDOC Early Release Program of inmates and awarding of Good Time credits which was halted at that time. The Republicans finally began a hearing this week, carefully timing it closer to November.

Some of the factual distortions and hype being presented by the Republicans right now about what happened prior to Gov Quinn’s suspension of the Early Release programs can be seen by comparing the Republican spin to the response by Alan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Office of Chicago (one of the few IL organizations working on prisoner rights issues. IllinoisPrisontalk.com is reporting that a factsheet (following the articles) was also passed out to attendees at the August 11, hearing to clear up some of the information presented. It is a pretty good summation of the situation surrounding the Early Release programs. The Republicans will hold another hearing on August 25, 2010, which will probably be more of the same hype.

What the Republicans said below: full version at the House Republican Caucus website

Springfield, IL….”House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno today announced formation of the Illinois Joint Investigatory Committee on Early Release. The mission of the committee is to determine the whereabouts of early release inmates, and to resolve unanswered questions about the details and community impact of Governor Quinn’s “MGT Push” and early release programs. Hearings have been scheduled for Peoria on August 11th and Chicago on August 25th…”

News reporting of August 11, 2010 hearing:

Panel looks at early prison release

(click above for full article)

GOP lawmakers meet to discuss MGT program

Photos

Edjuan Payne

Posted Aug 11, 2010 @ 11:38 PM
PEORIA —

“Edjuan Payne came to Peoria in the spring after being released early from a southern Illinois correctional center…Orvette Davis is a prime example of why the system didn’t work,” Peoria police Capt. Mike Scally said in testimony at the Illinois Central College North campus…Mr. Edjuan Payne is currently incarcerated with a charge of murder – he’s not gone to trial yet,” Scally continued. “If he had not been released at the time Orvette was killed, she’d be here today to talk to us, but she’s not…Payne was not scheduled to be paroled until July 22. But the Illinois Prisoner Review Board released the Chicago native March 29…That marked the second time in six months Payne was released early from prison. On Oct. 1, he was discharged as part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s since-discontinued MGT Push program…”

______________________________________________________________

Readers may remember that it is actually the mistake and inaction of the Rockford legal system that left Payne out of the street, as pointed out in this May 10, 2010 editorial in the PJStar. The Republicans should be blaming Rockford, not Quinn for Payne’s actions:
…”It appears the only substantial piece of information missing that could have been a difference-maker here was Payne’s arrest on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in Rockford last December. For some reason nothing was ever entered into the state’s central clearinghouse by Rockford police or the Winnebago County courts. Had it been, IDOC spokeswoman Sharyn Elman says, it would have been flagged as a violation of Payne’s parole and resulted in a warrant for his arrest, in which case he might never have gotten the opportunity to cross paths with Orvette Davis in Peoria. Fate can be such an arbitrary thing that, well, who knows?”…

___________________________________________________________

Illinois Republicans Host Early

Release Hearing

by Gina Ford

http://www.centralillinoisnewscenter.com

August 11, 2010Just months from the November elections, Republican lawmakers host a hearing in Peoria.They were looking at the impact of the state prison system’s early release and good time meritorious programs.Republicans leaders say after months of seeking answers on the state’s early release program, they have run into dead-ends. Wednesday night, those in the trenches dealing with the repercussions of the program spoke up.”When a judge sentences someone to the penitentiary, he sentences them for a determinable amount of time based on the crime that they did,” said Mike McCoy, Peoria County Sheriff.

McCoy said the Early Release and Good Time Meritorious programs should not be releasing hardened criminals to unsuspecting communities, especially after a 2009 secret release allowed violent offenders to go free.

“It was not in fact an early release at all. All the Director did was start following the law, give people the good time to which they are entitled and let them go when their sentence is over,” said legal director of a Chicago Non-profit law firm, Alan Mills.

Mills said the early release concept is misunderstood.

“There was an unwritten rule before saying that people had to spend at least 61 days in prison no matter how much good time they got back,” said Mills. “The director stopped enforcing the unwritten rule and started enforcing the written law.”

Lawmakers said that is little consolation for those who knew 41-year-old Orvetta Davis, killed in Peoria this year, allegedly by early parolee, Edjuan Payne.

“When we are trying to develop a case, not knowing that these people are back in our community make our job even harder,” said the Sheriff.

Mills said, the homicide is tragic but no prison reform is perfect and with a 50 percent recidivism rate statewide, it’s no indication that prisoners shouldn’t be freed early.

Democratic Lawmakers in attendance say they hope their colleagues on the other side of the aisle will allow them to join the fight, because it is a problem that hits home for both parties.

__________________________________________________________

A Scandal that Wasn’t – The Facts about “Early Release”

(Factsheet handed out to press by Alan Mills, Director of Uptown People’s Law Office, at August 11, 2020 hearing on Early Release)

1.  Nobody in any Illinois prison was released early.

a)  The 1,745 prisoners released during Fall 2009 under the Push-MGT program all served terms mandated by law.  The initiative taken by IDOC director Randle was to award MGT (Meritorious Good Time) to all those who were eligible for it, rather than arbitrarily withholding it from prisoners serving less than 61 days.  (These prisoners already served terms of at least three months in local jails before transfer to IDOC custody.)
b)  Prisoners serving terms less than 61 days are extremely expensive because they must be examined and classified, and assigned to a program of rehabilitation.  But since they are generally released long before they have to access rehabilitative programming – sometimes even before they have left Reception and Classification — a few additional days or weeks of incarceration is pointless.

c)  The average reduction in sentence for prisoners released under revised Push-MGT was 37 days.

2.  The scheduled release of prisoners was not secret.

a)  Though not much discussed in the media, Meritorious Good Time is a program that is well-known by corrections professionals and many legislators.  The law establishing the program  — 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(3) and (a)(4) — was passed in 1978 by Republican Governor James R. Thompson. The initiative was expanded by Republican Governor Jim Edgar in 1993 with added good time for the completion of educational, substance abuse and other programs.

b)  IDOC Director Randle publicly announced the expansion of the MGT release program in Sepember 2009. In addition, the IDOC lists on its website the names and photos of all prisoners in its custody, or under post-release supervision.  When the controversy about MGT arose, the IDOC separately published the names of released prisoners.

3. Push-MGT did not lead to higher recidivism.

a)  Illinois’ three-year recidivism rate is 51%.  Of the 1745 prisoners released under Push-MGT, just 57 (3.26%) were returned to prison for new offenses.  However under pressure from lawmakers and the press, new rules were established that lead to the return to prison of many more, 841 (48.2%).  These men were sent back to prison for technical, even petty violations, including a single positive drug or alcohol test or possession of alcohol in the home.  The new rules also required prisoners to make daily phone reports and twice-weekly visits to a parole office, sometimes hundreds of miles from their homes.  Violation of any of these provisions resulted in re-incarceration.

b)  A few of the released prisoners committed serious crimes, and this is regrettable. The story of Edjuan Payne who committed a murder in Peoria is especially disturbing.  But the crime for which Payne was incarcerated when he received good time credit was relatively minor, and a number of trained professionals – including conservatives on the Prisoner Review – determined that any threat posed by his release was small. They made a mistake that turned out to be tragic.  Some prisoners – whenever they are released – will recommit crimes, and there is no reason to believe that a few extra days or weeks in prison will turn a recidivist into a model citizen.  The only proven method of reducing recidivism is education, rehabilitation, and jobs.

4.  Most states have programs like MGT and they have been proven both safe and effective.

a)  A carefully controlled study of crime and punishment in New York, Michigan, Kansas, and New Jersey has indicated that prison populations can be safely cut by eliminating mandatory minimum terms, reducing or ending sentences for minor drug offenses, and increasing the use of meritorious good time (The Sentencing Project, Downsizing Prisons:  Lessons from Four States).   New York State has cut its prison population by 20% and reduced violent crime by 30% over ten years.  Saving money is compatible with public safety.

b)  The bi-partisan Taxpayer Action Board (TAB) appointed by Governor Quinn in 2009, recommended that the IDOC dramatically reduce its large, low-risk inmate population by allowing those who “no longer represent a significant risk to society” to “reenter society under state supervision.” MGT serves this essential purpose.

c)  The Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, (SB 1289) co-sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Durkin, was signed into law one year ago by Governor Pat Quinn.  Its mandate is to end the imprisonment of men and women guilty of minor crimes.  One provison of the law, (sec. 10, part c, no, 2), even decrees that additional good time can be earned by prisoners for participating in drug-treatment, educational and other programming. Some of the same legislators who voted to increase the use of MGT condemned it just a few months later!

5. Sen. Bill Brady sponsored a bill that reduced MGT, increasing the states prison population by 2,557 and costing the state an estimated $64 Million dollars per year!

a)  The Illinois prison population now stands at 47,718, an annualized increase of nearly 10% from the previous year, at a time when most states have been reducing their prison populations.  According to research by Malcolm Young of Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, Illinois could save 120 Million dollars a year by reducing its prison population by just 5,000 – a modest 10% reduction.
b)  The 28 Illinois prisons were built to hold 31,000 inmates.  They are now greatly overcrowded, leading to greater violence, sickness and mental illness among prisoners, and much greater danger to corrections officers.

The real scandal is that the prison population has been allowed to soar, recidivism rates to rise, and our pockets emptied because a few politicians prefer to arouse fear than offer real solutions.  The only path forward is to offer alternatives to prison for those who commit minor offenses, and educational and rehabilitation programs to those we must imprison.

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Part of what the John Howard Association has to say about the action of the Republicans: (rest here)

“At scheduled August hearings, House Republican Tom Cross and Senate Republican Christine Radogno’s “Investigatory Committee on Early Release” wants to ask questions that have already been answered.  What they should be asking is how taxpayers can afford a record high prison population and criminal justice policies that fail to increase public safety while Illinois faces a paralyzing budget deficit…”

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