Parolees put strain on Rockford justice system – – Rockford’s News Leader

Posted: February 26, 2012 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By Eric Wilson

Police Chief Chet Epperson talks about the problem of parolees re-offending in Rockford

A step forward, 2 steps back.  That’s one way to describe a problem Rockford Police face. They investigate crimes, find the people responsible, those people are locked up.  But the problem comes when many of those offenders are let out.  They commit crimes again, putting a strain on the system, increasing the number of victims, and costing taxpayers.

“Many of our violent crimes that are committed in the city of Rockford are committed by parolees or those that are also on probation,” says Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson.

You may have heard the words before, sometimes interchangeably: parole and probation.  They are similar – both forms of supervised release, but they’re also very different.  Probation is usually an alternative to being locked up.  Sometimes it’s combined with a short sentence. Parole tends to be for someone released from prison to serve the rest of the prison sentence in the community.  Violating rules of that parole may get that offender locked up again to finish the original sentence.  That doesn’t seem to stop many people from committing crimes more than once.

“At any given time there are about 800 parolees in Rockford, about 400 in the county.  And every week 3 – 9 re-offend,” Epperson says.

Chief Epperson estimates the recidivism rate, or the rate that people on parole will commit another crime, is about 80%. State of Illinois statistics put the re-arrest rate for people released from prison at around 66%.  The number arrested 3 or more times is 40%.

“Obviously we want the best for all these parolees,” Epperson says. “We want great integration to have them have a quality of life, get a job, pay taxes and not to be offenders.”

Epperson thinks there are 3 key ways to make things better.  There are organizations throughout the city working on re-integrating prisoners into the community.  He believes there should be a unified system.  The chief also believes constant communication with the Department of Corrections is essential.  That happens now.  He wants it to get stronger. The third idea might cost some money: electronic monitoring for all 800 or so parolees in the city.

According to the chief,  “That way the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Rockford Police Department, all law enforcement agencies can monitor those individuals.  If they’re going to go re-offend that takes a lot of dollars to go out and re-investigate crimes they’ve already committed before.

The chief points out each of those crimes… Also means more victims.

“They’ve committed multiple armed robberies, 4, 5, 6, or 7. And on the burglary side – property offense side – sometimes in the neighborhood of 100.”

And then there’s the possibility of prosecution for those crimes.  That’s where State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato comes in.  He knows adding to an already overloaded court system creates problems.  But he points out, the real question should be, ‘Why isn’t the punishment working?’

“What are we not addressing that we need to address to reduce recidivism or repeat offenders,” Bruscato says. “Clearly the message that we wanted to communicate from a punishment standpoint didn’t resonate with this defendant.”

Bruscato agrees with the chief that electronic monitoring is an idea but it really boils down to money.

“If that expense issue could be answered I certainly wouldn’t have an objection to having some sort of monitoring system that would increase the supervision of those that are on parole.  But I think the problem with that discussion is that it begins and ends with money,” Bruscato says.

Chief Epperson thinks a cost benefit analysis might show the monitoring is worth it.

We want to point out that we tried to set up interviews with the Illinois Department of Corrections but didn’t get our messages returned.

via Parolees put strain on Rockford justice system – – Rockford’s News Leader.

  1. I can’t help but think these men have no jobs and no way to support themselves. They then become desperate and dangerous. Perhaps instead of spending money on monitoring devices, more parole officers, more cops and investigators, the county should encourage local businesses to hire these men!

    Some taxing body could offer a reduction of taxes for any business that hires an ex-offender, or perhaps actually pay a portion of the new hire’s salary for at least 6 months.

    Instead of thinking of ways to monitor, catch, prosecute and lock ’em up again, why not take an active role in helping these ex-cons get reestablished in the community? A weekly or monthly meeting isn’t enough–these men need a stable job and paycheck to straighten out their lives.


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