Crowded prisons spawn dangers, hinder reform

Posted: February 22, 2011 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By Edith Brady-Lunny

Part 1 of Series: Fallout from MGT

At Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet, new inmates sleep on cots in gymnasiums. Workers at Pontiac Correctional Center buy hand soap when supplies run low. Everywhere, two bunks per cell are the norm.

They are just a few of the situations aggravated by too many prisoners housed by a state whose checkbook is written in red ink.

“We are bursting at the seams in every facility in the state of Illinois,” said Eddie Caumiant, regional director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that represents prison guards and other correctional staff.

Illinois’ prison population is exploding. With 48,760 inmates on Feb. 14, the state is on track to fill 52,000 beds, the maximum capacity now claimed by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The census has climbed steadily, by more than 3,000 inmates, since January 2010, when public outcry pushed Gov. Pat Quinn against a wall during a tight election. Previously, IDOC required that new inmates spend at least 60 days in prison before they could be considered for Meritorious Good Time credit.

Quinn ended that longtime practice for eligible offenders, leading to the surge in the state’s prison population.

Finding a replacement for the Meritorious Good Time and MGT-Push programs is a top priority for corrections officials.

“This is job one,” said Cara Smith, the department’s newly hired chief of staff and an attorney who spent several years working for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

via Crowded prisons spawn dangers, hinder reform.

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