First Indication that Quinn & State of IL resolve to Address State Prison Overcrowding & Release of Prisoners

Posted: January 21, 2012 by parchangelo in Early Release, FOIA-Freedom of Information Act, IDOC, IL in Fiscal Ruins, Local Issues, Meritorious Good Time, Uncategorized
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May 31, 2012, State Legislature passes new law paving way for Early Release programs! Read latest at http://richardwanke.com

 

We previously advised readers that any return of the Meritorious Good Time Credit (MGT) which IL Governor Pat Quinn suspended in December 2009, or a new program for the early release of IL inmates would first be publicly announced before the state acted to release anyone. Rumors are spread every month to inmates within the IL Department of Corrections (IDOC) about the anticipated return of MGT. These rumors are false, and as this article shows, IDOC is not about to reinstate MGT.

This article is the first clear and official indication of how Governor Quinn intends to proceed in order to address the extreme prison overcrowding he created in his attempt to win election as state governor. Quinn has so far ignored all inquiries as to why he has not reinstated MGT, but this article basically states that he will not do so; nor will he implement any “early release” program across the board. Rather, it states that Quinn and staff are brainstorming with just a few crucial legislators who deal with criminal justice issues; particularly Rep. Dennis Reboletti, who is a hard-liner on crime.

Rep Reboletti speaks of “alternative sentencing”,  ankle bracelets, treatment centers and halfway houses; terms similar to Quinn’s mention in October 2010 that he would focus on altenative sentencing, but it remains to be seen exactly what, if any, leniency will be included in the methods by which these options will be implemented. Reboletti has never advocated shortening sentences and releasing any inmates early, and his alternative sentencing options may mean just removing prisoners from IDOC and the State’s responsibility and instead making them serve the remainder of their terms elsewhere, such as in local communities.  Given that the State is short on money already and so are most communities; passing the responsibility for prisoner behavior onto localities would be difficult to work out. Yet, if localities accept inmates and themselves release them early, then the State can avoid political flack if anything goes wrong.

Whatever form of compromise is reached between Quinn and his legislators, it is unlikely to apply uniformly across the board for inmates. Some inmates convicted of non-violent offenses will be eligible to participate; yet others committing other offenses may not have that option.  Rep. Art Turner’s legislative overture to set aside the 60 day requirement is certainly doomed. Additionally, since funding sources appear to be non-existent right now, implementing sentencing alternatives and processing individuals by the end of the upcoming Spring legislative session appears to be over-optimistic. ILprisontalk.com is urging it’s members to contact legislators in support of Rep Turner’s bill and HB 3900. We doubt this is necessary. Since legislators tightened eligibility restrictions for awarding MGT, they are unlikely to now loosen them, and Governor Quinn won’t require this. Given who the legislators are that Quinn is negotiating with, Quinn isn’t going to unveil any risky or lenient program for sentence reduction. And, he will not need a prod to act. He will just move when he decides to do so. He can count on legislative support, not opposition, as legislators are not likely to oppose any actions negotiated by both parties and the Governor that they believe will reduce the prison population (and, more importantly, prison costs).

Quinn may have a few more unpleasant surprises up his sleeve. Last year he pushed hard for a state tax increase and got it, but it did not solve the state’s fiscal problems. Illinois is more in the hole than ever, and there are no more magic rabbits for Quinn. Now, his only solutions are to cut state expenses and increase the state’s efficiency, and he is starting to move in ways which may be ruthless. Quinn had seven state facilities on the chopping block for closure last year. Their closures were averted at the time, but he just resurrected two of them last week: Tinley Park and Jacksonville. These serve vulnerable, disabled individuals which Quinn now states he is justified on moving back into the community because he has better plans for their placement and welfare. Quinn’s plans are yet unspecified and may be little better than his initial and criticized plans, yet he is announcing the closures of Tinley Park and Jacksonville as executive and final decisions not subject to re-review. Quinn is using the assertion that because his initial closure plans for these two facilities involved public hearings and a review, that these eliminate the necessity for the same this time around. If Quinn wins on this point, don’t be surprised if he also resurrects the closure of Logan Correctional Center and/or the Chester Mental Health Center.

This is not to say that alternative sentencing is not the solution. It is, but it will not succeed alone. Alternative sentencing options will only take some offenders out of IDOC to relieve prison overcrowding. It does not resolve the overcrowding in the first place, and if the current community mindset with respect to crime and offenders is not changed, then localities will not welcome alternative sentencing options and the placements of offenders.

Supposedly, there has been a statewide push for several years for circuit courts and counties to develop local programs to recognize and correct the problem of persons being sent to prison who either do not need to be there in the first place or who do not benefit by being in prison. While it is known that some individuals are dangerous to society or deserving of severe punishment; IL prisons today are largely filled with more minor offenders who are not rehabilitated but simply warehoused by state prison.  Adult Redeploy was designed to create funding methods for communities to develop alternative court supervision and rehabilitative programs to reserve state prison for serious and dangerous offenders.

Some communities deserve credit for getting their jail populations under control, because they have been proactive in realizing that it is better to rehabilitate rather than punish the citizens who ultimately return to their communities. Other communities have continued to deal harshly with offenders and are just beginning to consider their options as they are finding that they cannot afford the costs of jailing everyone. Unfortunately, much better progress could have been made with Adult Redeploy up to this point in time. Now, if the state also throws responsibility for prison inmates upon these localities, it may swamp them. Not only that, but the state and these localities will face the public unwillingness to host inmates since these localities have been trained for years to criminalize offenders.

The chickens are coming home to roost for IL. On the one hand the state is running out of money as the prison population continues to climb; on the other hand, electoral rhetoric and “Get tough on Crime” politics have created a public atmosphere which is unreceptive to the degree of mindset change required to effectively deal with prison overcrowding in time to avoid embarrassing lawsuits and costly effects.

__________________________________________________________________________

AP Exclusive: Lawmakers seek prison crowding fix

FILE – In this April 2004 file photo, eighty-six inmates share a dormitory at the minimum-security Vandalia Prison in Vandalia, Ill. With Illinois’ prison population continuing to rise and Gov. Pat Quinn refusing to reinstate a program that gave well-behaved prisoners early release, lawmakers from both parties are pushing plans this spring to find alternatives to incarceration or other ideas to reduce the state’s packed lockups. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman,File) — AP
By JOHN O’CONNOR, AP Political Writer
3:23 p.m., Jan. 20, 2012

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Lawmakers from both parties are seeking ways to reduce Illinois’ growing prison population, and one has introduced legislation to restart a contentious program that let well-behaved prisoners out early.

Gov. Pat Quinn shut down the 30-year-old early release program after The Associated Press reported in 2009 that prison officials had implemented an unpublicized, accelerated version that was springing criminals in as little as eight days.

He has shown no interest in reviving it, but least one legislator is looking at it again as the prison population has grown by 3,000 inmates in two years. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers is meeting with Quinn to find solutions more palatable to the governor and the public.

Conditions inside state prisons are “wretched,” according to John Maki, executive director of the prison watchdog group John Howard Association. Monitoring visits to Illinois lockups in the past year have revealed inmates housed in gymnasiums, standing water in living quarters and rodent problems.

Illinois is not alone in trying to address prison crowding. An August report by the American Civil Liberties Union identified six states that have adopted laws in the past five years to decrease prison populations, with four more working on the issues. One of the more popular tacks among reform states is to expand good-conduct credit, including in Kentucky and Ohio just last year.

Prison advocates nationwide generally support early release as one solution to overcrowding, and Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, has introduced legislation that would restore Illinois’ accelerated early-release program. But the governor previously has said he won’t go along with that, even with new controls imposed by lawmakers, after problems with the program nearly cost him reelection in 2010.

Instead, Quinn’s staff has been working with a group of legislators who plan to pick up the pace when the General Assembly resumes its work later this month. Some told the AP they hope to have a solution by the end of the spring session.

The group includes Rep. Dennis Reboletti, a law-and-order legislator who speaks of being “smart on crime” and advocates alternative sentencing, such as treatment for first- or second-time substance abusers.

“Put them into community-based programs with ankle bracelets, into treatment centers or halfway houses where they can get job counseling or programming to put them back into a productive life,” the Elmhurst Republican said.

As of November, there were 48,620 people incarcerated in Illinois, 144 percent more than the 33,700 for which space was designed, according to the Corrections Department. But department officials now play down those numbers, saying “operational capacity” is about 51,200. That’s after the agency began counting how many people a facility can actually hold, along with what it was designed to house.

For decades in Illinois, the director of the Corrections Department had the discretion to cut sentences with “meritorious good time,” or MGT, by up to six months for an inmate who displayed good behavior behind bars.

But Quinn abandoned the practice in December 2009 after the AP reported that the agency secretly dropped an informal requirement that all incoming inmates serve 60 days behind bars before getting good-time credit in a plan dubbed “MGT Push.” More than 1,700 inmates were released under that program, and some went on to commit more crimes.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Derrick King, for example, was sentenced to three years in prison for a brutal attack on a woman in 2008. He served about a year in county jail and 14 days in state prison before he was released in October 2009 under MGT Push and then arrested the next day on suspicion of assault and sent back to prison.

Lawmakers later put the 60-day minimum sentence requirement into law. An independent review of the accelerated early-release program determined the Quinn administration had failed to consider dangers to public safety in trying to save money and recommended it be reinstated with reforms.

Quinn has not said why his administration will not reinstate the program, although he said in October 2010 he was focusing on “alternative sentencing approaches.” Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson confirmed he’s working with the legislative group to “manage population numbers while continuing to incarcerate – for safety, rehabilitation, and punishment.”

Along with Reboletti, the panel meeting with Quinn’s staff about a solution includes Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale and Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin. Each says he’s open to options that keep the public safe but reduce the inmate population to make prisons safer and spare the state budget. The House Democrats’ representative is parliamentarian David Ellis, the governor’s office said.

Dillard, a candidate for governor in 2010 and potentially again in 2014, said early release is not popular, given the shock of MGT Push.

“My constituents want people locked up,” he said. “They’re tired of people who still should be locked up in the penitentiary (out) committing crimes.”

Nonetheless, he’s open to ideas such as Reboletti’s.

Turner’s bill would reverse the new 60-day minimum prison sentence requirement and give the Corrections director discretion to release anyone who has served 60 days behind any bars, including in county jails. Turner did not return repeated calls and an email seeking comment.

Regardless of the method, something has to happen soon, Maki said.

At Vandalia prison in June, John Howard visitors found dirty, stagnant water pooling on the floor of inmates’ living areas. One dormitory, Building 19, at Vienna prison in September had rodent droppings and inmates complained of mice and cockroaches. Windows on two floors were broken and birds had built nests inside.

“When you put nonviolent offenders in deplorable conditions you’re not going to make this person better,” said Maki, whose report blames Quinn and lawmakers who have cut corrections budgets. “Prisons are not typically uplifting places, but Building 19 was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen.”

Illinois governor to close 2 state institutions

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Comments
  1. Legal says:

    Legal…

    […]IDOC Inmate Early Release & Agency Reform (Page Updated Jan 21, 2012) « RichardWanke.Com[…]…

    Like

  2. marcus says:

    people should fault judges due to over crowdness of the penal instution not quinn…stiff punishments that the state cant handle like givine some one 4 years for 0.3 grams that shoule be considered personal use drug programs…. more at home lock downs will save a lot of money penilize people to the comfort of there own home will save a lot of money

    Like

  3. Babeh says:

    Is anyone who is with PCS haivng issues with being diconnected? I prepay but was disconnected twice from ICC’s end due to another inmate hanging up. You get charged the full amount. When you call PCS they say it’s on ICC’s end.Is it another means to collected unjust funds at ICC if they can’t get their phones right or what? Any suggestions anyone?Contacting PCS is a joke in person as you can spend an hour attempting to get a Person! ICC makes funds from them to boot!Where did the Pizza funds go?Yes, I’m angry and frustrated with no place to put it.

    Like

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