Meritorious Good Time Credits: The Buck Stops At IL Governor Pat Quinn

Posted: June 18, 2011 by lactoselazy in IDOC, Uncategorized
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May 31, 2012, State Legislature passes new law paving way for Early Release programs! Read latest at

Please note: when contacting Quinn’s office by phone, you will speak with a staffer, who will first try to feed you the line “THEY” haven’t let us know anything about when it will come back or what is happening with it; we just know that it is suspended. The staffer makes it sound like Quinn is waiting on someone else to move first. But, if you press the issue and let the staffer know that you are aware that Quinn has the power to reinstate it and that IDOC is working on it, so why hasn’t Quinn given at least announced a tentative timetable to reinstate it, etc., and talk harm, then the staffer switches to “He” hasn’t let them know, in a tone that becomes more hostile :). Just gotta keep pushing!

It is now June 18, 2011, and the January – May, Illinois legislative session is over.

It was unexpected, but our state legislators ended up accomplishing a lot during the session. Observers attribute this to the influence on legislators of fiscal problems and the possibility of dwindling political power. Whatever the reasons, legislators were not only able to raise taxes for the first time in decades, but also agreed to pass a state budget instead of dumping all fiscal responsibility into the lap of the governor as they have repeatedly done over the past 5 – 6 years. State legislators  deserve credit for finally knuckling down and doing their jobs, even if it did took them all session to do so and left many lesser, important issues unresolved. We politely applaud the work of our legislators and now turn our scrutiny to IL Governor Pat Quinn.

This legislative session saw the same “get tough on crime” sentiment from legislators as in the past few years. There were about the same number of bills introduced and passed this session as in during the past few years which were either intended to harshen criminal penalties for specific crimes, criminalize more actions, or else intensify the reporting requirements for parolees or IDOC. In that respect, despite all the 2010 electoral furor and hype over crime and public safety which led Quinn to suspend Meritorious Good Time Credit (MGT) for prison inmates in the first place, the 2011 legislative session was not dominated by a continuation of public safety concerns being expressed by either legislators or the public. Governor Quinn has not and was not at any time during this legislative session held hostage to any demands by others that either particular legislation be proposed or passed dealing with the issue of MGT regulations. Plenty of anti-crime bills were proposed, but they were all individual and unrelated bills which did not coalesce into a huge campaign targeted at determining or really reducing Quinn’s and IDOC’s control over MGT.

MGT was just a dot on the horizon at this legislative session. Sure, some horribly egregious “anti-crime legislation” was passed, such as the “murderers registry” which will continue to keep IL at the top of the list of a select number of “idiot” states committed to financial suicide under the erroneous belief that their taxpayers can afford to pay the massive costs of maintaining burgeoning state prison populations. But, by and large, legislators paid relatively little attention to “public safety” issues. Even Illinoisprisontalk’s, (in our opinion), misguided attempt to help legislators push a tougher MGT agenda through failed to draw legislative interest and reportedly had an outright hostile response from Quinn’s administration. A number of serious, large, anti-crime bills simply either failed to pass this session or were not seriously pursued, and legislators were instead embroiled the whole session with mainly trying to determine the state budget.

If this legislative session revealed anything, it is that the power to reinstate the awarding of Meritorious Good Time Credits (MGT) to the inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), rests entirely on the political ambitions of Gov. Pat Quinn.

As most observers, we assumed this year that our state legislators had to take action to pass new laws or otherwise enact new guidelines for MGT before Gov. Pat Quinn could feel empowered enough to risk his political neck by taking any action to reinstate MGT.  However, this quiet legislative session proved us wrong to assume that Governor Quinn has ever required any outside impetus to reinstate MGT. Instead, we have to tell readers that, in our opinion, Governor Quinn could have reinstated MGT  at any time since January 2011, without facing massive political fallout. That Governor Quinn has not permitted IDOC to reinstate MGT or even issued a public explanation as to why he has not done so reveals to us a callous disregard for the hardships he has imposed upon the lives of IL inmates and their families and an unconcern for his public accountability on an important issue.

There is no question that Gov. Pat Quinn bears the overall responsibility for the suspension of meritorious good time credit for Illinois prison inmates and the resulting negative ways it has impacted inmates and their families since he suspended the program in December 2009. Since 1978, attorneys and the courts have been advising inmates to include the expectation of receiving MGT credit time of 90 – 180 days off a sentence for good conduct during incarceration as the basis to use in order to evaluate plea negotiations and to soften the estimate of how much of any given sentence they would have to serve.

Even right now,  from  December 13, 2009, when Governor Pat Quinn suspended the program, to the present, most individuals receiving sentences or accepting plea deals who are faced with going to prison today still receive the assurances from their attorneys and court personnel that they can expect to receive some amount of MGT time off their sentence. It is only when they arrive at IDOC to serve their sentences that most individuals are finding out that they are misled and that they will probably have to serve their full sentences, especially if it is less than several years. This false advice that individuals will be released earlier by months or by a year is wreaking massive havoc with the personal lives and arrangements families make in order to plan their survival while a member is incarcerated. In these difficult economic times, whole families are being placed at the unnecessary and additional financial and/or health risk by the false assumption that a wage-earner or head-of-household will be incarcerated for less time than they will actually be forced to serve.

Quinn has not acted in any manner to reduce these negative consequences of the suspension of MGT upon the lives of inmates or their families.  Quinn’s state agency, IDOC has been a rumor mill working overtime at the outset of each month since December 2009, feeding inmates a line of BS about the probable and shortly anticipated return and reinstatement of MGT; a rumor which just never happens to be true.  Right now, the rumor-mill is reporting that MGT will return July 1, 2011, when in reality this is just another false date, even if it is the start of the next fiscal year for the state. If Quinn was concerned about mitigating the effects of IDOC staff misinforming inmates about when MGT would return, he could easily and quickly have put a stop to IDOC staff MGT rumor-mill, but he has not done so. The IDOC staff rumor mill continues to churn. IL inmates have just increasingly learned to be wary of it since being burned on so many occasions, but those new to IDOC continue to fall into it’s trap.

At the minimum, after this substantial and legally questionable delay in state action on MGT, it is long overdue, and it would be a moral step in the right direction for Quinn to wade in and to immediately force all state agencies, attorneys, and court personnel to stop mis-advising inmates regarding the suspension of MGT and the timing of any possible return of MGT.


Exactly what is Pat Quinn waiting for, and why is MGT still top-secret? We know that Quinn and IDOC do plan to reinstate MGT at some point. IDOC officials admitted publicly months ago that it has a plan underway to work to restore MGT. Supposedly, the plan involves the complete updating of IDOC’s computer system to utilize Microsoft’s new Offender 360 corrections management software. Supposedly, the plan also involves the development of new internal IDOC procedures to facilitate the correct determination of inmate eligibility for MGT and any inmate recidivist tendencies in order to minimize public safety issues from released inmates. It is also reasonable to presume that a lot of staff retraining is required.

These are all reasonable steps showing that IDOC under Quinn has put an immense effort into revamping MGT. This is laudable and will hopefully result in a revised MGT program which will clarify the rights of inmates and procedures as well as reduce the possibility that dangerous individuals will be erroneously released early into communities.

Yet, from the outset, there is no reason, and no excuse for the absence of any timeline for the completion of this process being publicly issued by Governor Quinn. As the one individual who has claimed ultimate responsibility for the suspension of a vital program affecting the lives of thousands of incarcerated individuals and their families, with particularly harsh effects upon those serving shorter sentences for less serious offenses, Quinn has failed to be upfront with those who he has harmed. Quinn could have and should have warned inmates from the outset that he envisioned this process taking at least 1 – 2 years to complete and that MGT would be suspended for at least that duration. This would have saved thousands much of the uncertainty which they have been suffering. Quinn would have faced no political criticism for announcing such a timeline, particularly since winning re-election.

Governor Quinn needs to hear a public outcry from readers concerning our entitlement to some knowledge after all this time about when MGT will be reinstated. After all, what is a date, and how hard can it be for him to issue even a tentative one? It is apparent that work on the plan has progressed well toward the stage of completion. Sure, there is the possibility that the funding to complete transition to the Offender 360 software may not be in place in 2012, but even that problem appears to be working itself out to some resolution in legislative funding. Both IDOC and Quinn have a target date to reinstate MGT, and inmate families deserve to know what this is. We urge readers to click on this link to visit Governor Pat Quinn’s Website and either e-mail him on the page, or write or call him at the address listed. Instruct him that it is time for him to be upfront with the thousands of inmates left hanging by his suspension of MGT. Tell him he has a moral obligation to make a public announcement (even with a tentative date) about when MGT will be reinstated, and that no one constituency should continue to be sacrificed to protect his political ambitions and left to deal with unnecessary hardship and misadvice simply because he remains needlessly afraid of political criticism.

  1. Tonysgirl says:

    I sent him a message but he never wrote me back 😦 it just goes to show ya that he dont give a shit bout noone even taxpayers… This is bull $&*T just give back allready!!! what is the damn holdup?


    • Krissie says:

      I wrote him a e-mail too. It took him(or his office) to send a letter to me after 2 months of me e-mailling him! Im sure you will get something soon!


  2. marcia smith says:

    This is a great piece. I think that you are preaching to the choir here, and I am wondering how we can get this infomration to be published in a general newspaper/newssite that has a broader, unaffected-by-prison audience. All of us in the system are painfully aware of this issue, but mainstream America, and mainstream Illinoians in particuar, are not. How can we educate them and get different on Quinn.


    • Hannah says:

      Is there anything new about the bill here?? have they talked about it yet? Quinn needs to get a move on it because it said at the end of this month January 31 2012 they would be talking about it. Please let me know.


  3. Mara says:

    Someone on one of the prison forums mentioned that there was already a court case decided here in Illinois, at the State Supreme Court level as I recall, which determined that the only way an inmate can be deprived of MGT is for behavior reasons. And yet Quinn is depriving all eligible inmates of MGT because of his own personal reasons, it has nothing to do with behavior. We’ve got a perfect situation for a lawsuit, not even sure where to start though! How are injunctions achieved?


  4. isabel r. says:

    he just dosent care because he has no family member in prison. if he did im sure the mgt would be givien with no problem.


  5. anessia williams says:

    Who do i contact to start filing a lawsuit against quinn, idoc, and the state if need be. At this point enough is enough. He does not care and shows no concern for the safety of inmates because they are not votes. What he is failing to realize is that inmates have families and we vote. But he needs a wake up call. So im sure a lawsuit can be filed I just need to know where to turn.


  6. Mel says:

    It needs to be done for non-violent offenders, the state is bankrupt and its not necessary to keep many of these offenders behind bars, keep killers, rapists the low of the low, let everyone else go. Who cares about shoplifters, and weed smokers.its rediculous.


  7. Mrs. Sabrina was. Wardell says:

    I am very I’ll. As of April 5,2012 I became sick with congestive heart failure,pulmonary embolism, multiple strokes and have other health issues. I am in desperate need of my husband to be at least on a program that he can take care of me during the day. On may 24,2012 I lost 9
    Qrts. Of blood from hem orating neighbor found me in bathroom on floor needed blood. Transfusion. Please governor Quinn give me some type of help. His name is a.wardell # k89599 in vandalia work center release on reg. time 4/13/13. I need someone with me I take 30
    Pills per. Day. Please help. Thank you. You can reach me @ Mrs.sabrinawms.wardell


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