IL Prison Expert Chides GOP Antics & Facts Support His Findings

Posted: October 28, 2010 by lactoselazy in IDOC, IL in Fiscal Ruins

Malcolm Young, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law and a former head of the prison watchdog group John Howard Association issued a report today attacking the misconceptions about Governor Pat Quinn’s failed IDOC “Early Release” program which IL GOP candidates are spreading among IL voters in the attempt win State elections next week. The article came out today in the Pantagraph, and you can read the article by clicking on the link below:

Prison expert: Ending early release a mistake

Young says, “…prisoner release programs are a viable way to manage prison population during tough budget times. He notes that reaction to the blow-up has resulted in a spike in the prison population and new laws that may not help the situation…the decision to curtail early release programs has resulted in the state prison population spiking by 3,000 inmates in 10 months…The state has a tremendous deficit. The state’s prison system is severely overcrowded. The deficit will get much worse if we lose control of the prison population, which will inevitably lead to an increase in the corrections budget…”

Confirmation that what Young is pointing out is happening in IL is counterproductive to both public safety and the public budget was also just affirmed in the October 26, 2010, National Public Radio story regarding the aging of our prison population in the interview discussion with two other national prison experts. That interview can be listened to and the transcript read by clicking on the link to the story below:

Aging Prison Population Poses Unique Challenges

Experts Sullivan and Turley point out a few facts in that interview. They state that the US used to be the world leader in correctional philosophy until the 1990’s when, we began toughening laws and went to a warehousing approach to rack-and-stack prisoners with life-in-prison without parole sentences. The irony of the situation, Turley states is that while crime is mostly a young man’s (or woman’s) game, we give individuals longer and harsher sentences as they age (keeping more older prisons in prison when most of them are less of a safety risk and could be released with less recidivism occurring).

And, they point out that the results are older prisoners are taking up more and more valuable space that is needed for younger offenders. Because life in prison is unhealthy and tends to age prisoner faster, these older prisoners cost disportionately more to house and treat medically.

Turley states, “…if you don’t have a facility or a unit or a staff that’s trained, it’s very hard to do preventative medicine because of a phenomenon called masking. And masking comes with age, that as you age, the symptoms of aging can mask types of illnesses…And someone who’s experienced with geriatric medicine can account for masking issues. But most doctors can’t. So many of these illnesses for older prisoners go chronic, and they become extremely expensive…”

He goes on to clarify that not releasing someone early really isn’t an option to the states because, “…the question for society is not whether someone will be released. Someone’s going to be released. The Constitution requires that they be released unless we do a massive expansion of our prison system…The question is who. And we’re not making a decision, a logical decision, in our society anymore…”

He mentions the desire among prison officials to release older, ailing prisoners because they are aware that they cannot afford to house and treat them, and they want to push these costs onto the outside state and federal medical programs which are much more efficient in handling these costs than prisons.

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