Story’s portrayal starts ‘secret’ controversy

Posted: February 22, 2011 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

SPRINGFIELD — State prison workers knew about the accelerated version of a 32-year-old program that deducted days from inmate sentences by giving them credit for “good time.”

But police, prosecutors and the public learned about MGT-Push from The Associated Press in a Dec. 13, 2009, story that described MGT-Push as a secret program responsible for releasing hundreds of potentially dangerous inmates.

Some Chicago media outlets and prison reform advocates took issue with characterizations that public safety was put at risk by the release of about 1,700 inmates who left prison an average of 37 days earlier because of the program.

Otherwise, “the media acted as a herd” and treated the issue “as if it was a major scandal, instead of what it was: the deliberate implementation of a small change in a long-established program, intended to save money, modestly relieve overcrowding, and uphold public safety,” said Stephen Eisenman of Chicago, an art professor active in the Illinois prison reform movement.

In January 2010, the Illinois Institute for Community Law hosted a number of speakers involved in the prison reform movement. They argued that understaffed, aging facilities were the root of the state’s prison problems, not early release programs.

At a hearing in August 2010, Alan Mills, lead attorney in litigation over conditions at Tamms Correctional Center, the state’s only “supermax” prison, argued no inmate was released “early.” He said the state was merely following the law.

The Associated Press maintains its characterizations of the programs were fair and accurate.

“The reporting speaks for itself. We stand by the stories,” said George Garties, AP’s Chicago bureau chief.

via Story’s portrayal starts ‘secret’ controversy.

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