Posts Tagged ‘IDOC’


The Coronavirus will potentially devastate IL prisons; its inmates and those in county jail throughout the state. We are compiling information about the Illinois Department of Correction’s response to the virus and county jails compared to the prisons and jails in other US states as well as the Bureau of Federal Prisons. We are also compiling information offered by prison experts and advocates on behalf of inmates.

You can find this information on our IDOC Agency IDOC Inmate Early Release Page. (<<< click on the red there)

Each day it is becoming more apparent just how inadequate the US response is to the coronavirus epidemic on both the national and local level regarding the safety of the general public. It’s further alarming and outrageous to read the news accounts and reports we’re compiling which show that Illinois’s efforts not only lag significantly behind those of most states but particularly so regarding the health and welfare of Illinois state and county inmates. Illinois county and state facilities have made little preparation for this epidemic compared to other states.

As of this date, at least 4 IDOC facilities have been locked down on medical quarantine for almost a week due to unknown illness. That includes at least 50 inmates at the Menard Correctional Center who suffer from “flu-like” symptoms, 60 inmates at Southwestern IL Correctional, and an unknown number at Robinson Correctional. Cook County Jail is also the first Illinois jail to report that Coronavirus testing is available for its inmates.

Despite the illness and numbers, the Illinois Department of Corrections publicly admits that it is not testing any inmates for Coronavirus. Nor has it said whether it intends to ever do so.


 

No one should have to die just because one is sent away to prison.  Yet, the story below is not new. Not everyone can withstand the mental and physical pressures of imprisonment especially when they are treated little better than warehoused cattle. We routinely see PETA and other animal rights group advertisements in print and on media about the abuse of animals in puppy mills, etc., and we cringe. But we ignore the terrible physical conditions, sensory deprivation and human misery prisoners suffer under in our state and federal prisons and even many of our county jails.

As in this story, the institutional response is most often complete indifference and non-acknowledgement of responsibility. Prisons and jails are run for cost and often operated at the lowest common-demoninator cost. Staffing is often minimal and operations are cheap. Human welfare and concern are not even on the menu.

Read Article: Losing a son in NY prisons

From article:

“…Lonnie Hamilton III entered the state prison system on January 2, 2015, after spending nineteen months in a city jail. He was assigned to a prison in central New York, two hundred and fifty miles from the Bronx, known as Marcy Correctional Facility. By then he was twenty-one. At the beginning of his imprisonment, he called his father often, but as the months passed he became more secluded. By the spring of 2016, Ham had not heard from him in several months. In early May, he began putting together a care package to mail to Lonnie: clothes for the upcoming warm weather, underwear, sneakers, some of his favorite junk food, like Oreos.

Ham went to the prison system’s Web site to find his son’s inmate number. He typed his son’s name into the inmate-lookup section; next to “Latest Release Date,” he saw “03/18/16 deceased.” “I’m, like, that must be wrong,” he recalled. “So I go and start the whole process all over, and it’s coming up ‘deceased.’ My head is swivelling a thousand miles an hour. What the hell is going on? So I call up there, and I’m trying to get answers.” That’s how he found out that “deceased” was not a mistake: Lonnie was dead.

Getting more information proved nearly impossible. “As I’m talking, these people are hot-potatoing the phone to the next person, to the next person,” he told me. He reached a male officer: “He F.U.-ed me, told me to have a nice day, and hung the phone up on me.” At that moment, Ham was riding in his brother’s car. “This threw me into such a rage, I damn near jumped out the car,” he said. His brother told him about an app that records telephone calls, and he started using it as he called around the prison.

Eventually, he reached Deputy Superintendent Mark Kinderman. “We did everything we could to try to get some kind of response, to try to track someone down,” Kinderman told him. “We tried a lot of different family members. . . . Every number we had was called, was called multiple times.” The father acknowledged the difficulty of tracking people down by cell phone—“a lot of people’s numbers tend to change”—but he asked why, if nobody could reach him on the phone, he had not received a letter notifying him of his son’s death…”


ROCKFORD — “It’s breathtaking. Oh my goodness,” a Rockford man said after emerging from the Winnebago County Jail into the sunshine this afternoon after more than 23 years behind bars for a murder he and his supporters maintain he didn’t commit.John Horton Jr., 40, was convicted of the 1993 murder of Arthur Castaneda in Rockford. Horton was 17 years old when Castaneda was fatally shot during a robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant, located at that time at 2715 Charles St. He was sentenced

Source: John Horton of Rockford free after more than 2 decades in prison


https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/privatization-criminal-justice/private-prisons


Governor Pat Quinn is beginning to face serious criticism for inaction regarding prison overcrowding and prison violence is escalating. So, Quinn is now claiming IDOC is implementing the new sentence credits as a way to reduce overcrowding. Yet, when Quinn first said this yesterday, an IDOC spokesperson indicated it had no firm timeline for implementation of the early release. Today, this is corrected below with Quinn and IDOC stating the first 12 inmates have been selected and will be released next month. It is too bad that it seems to require a surge in prison violence and public criticism rather than humanitarian motivation to get the Governor to move on  this important issue:

Prison officials ready to launch early inmate release program

4 hours ago  •  Kurt Erickson

SPRINGFIELD — State officials said Friday they are finally launching an early prisoner release program that could reduce some of the overcrowding within the prison system and, possibly, reduce some of the violence going on behind bars.

The first of 12 inmates who have been deemed eligible for the program could hit the streets in the coming month as the Illinois Department of Corrections reviews prisoner files to determine who might qualify.

“The new program will allow the department to, after comprehensive review, award up to 180 days of sentence credit to statutorily eligible offenders who demonstrate positive behavior in custody and show a potential for rehabilitation,” a Corrections release stated.

The program comes more than three years after Gov. Pat Quinn suspended an early release program after The Associated Press reported that an estimated 2,000 inmates had spent only days or weeks of their sentences in prison.

Since then, the state’s prison system has mushroomed by more than 3,000 inmates. At the same time, Quinn has moved to close prisons, saying the state cannot afford to keep all of the facilities open.

The combination of more inmates in fewer cells has led to inmates sleeping in gymnasiums and what critics say is a dangerous rise in violence. On Friday, Lawrence Correctional Center and Menard Correctional Center were on lockdown status, while Stateville Correctional Center was on partial lockdown.

John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, said the program could help alleviate some of the pressure on the prison system by reducing the inmate population and giving prisoners an incentive to behave.

But, Maki said, the governor should abandon his plan to close Dwight Correctional Center because overcrowding remains a serious problem.

“Illinois is still going to have a very overcrowded prison system,” Maki said.

The system held 45,000 inmates in prisons designed for 33,000 inmates when the last early release program was terminated in 2009. Projections show the number of inmates is heading toward 50,000 in a system built for 32,000 if the governor moves forward with the closure of the all-female prison in Dwight.

Quinn already has shuttered the super-maximum-security prison in Tamms.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents prison guards and other state workers, said the program could be a positive step.

“But by the department’s own admission in its latest inmate population projection for 2013, this is not an answer to the state’s huge overcrowding problem,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said. “The overcrowding crisis and accompanying dangers will only get worse unless Gov. Quinn keeps Dwight open and reverses the closure of the four IDOC facilities he recently shuttered.”

Under the new program, offenders must have served at least 60 days within the state prison system to be eligible for credit. Inmate files will go through multiple levels of review before an award is determined, Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

The program is aimed at nonviolent offenders. Credits cannot be awarded to inmates serving time for murder, rape, kidnapping and other serious crimes.

Officials also will have the right to revoke credit if an inmate demonstrates negative or violent behavior, which was not permitted under previous programs.

The department must notify local authorities at least two weeks prior to an inmate’s parole if the offender received supplemental sentence credit at any point during incarceration.

The agency said it will not inform those who call the agency whether an inmate will be eligible for credit.

But in an attempt to bring transparency to the process, the new law will require the department to provide annual reports outlining how many inmates received credits.

http://qctimes.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/prison-officials-ready-to-launch-early-inmate-release-program/article_1ca143b8-7d3a-11e2-b5f9-0019bb2963f4.html

 

 


A lot of people are visiting the website daily wondering if and when something will be posted saying that IDOC is beginning to release inmates from their sentences early by awarding them up to six months of discretionary sentence credits. The internet is awash with individual rumors from inmates and prison staff throughout the state claiming that some one said the state will begin releasing people early at one prison or another within the next couple of weeks, etc.

All these are rumors which are all UNCONFIRMED. So far, no one is able to produce paperwork showing that they have been awarded sentence credits and will be released earlier than otherwise as a result.

So, what does this all mean? Well, so far, while IDOC has said that staff are beginning to review inmate records to see who is eligible to receive what credit, IDOC is still unwilling or unable to commit itself to a specific date by which it will release that first inmate. The most revealing information IDOC has provided to date about how it is going about implementing any early release is the statement in the article contained below, where it said, “…This will be an ongoing, careful and thoughtful process,” Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said in a statement…”

Ill. prisons reintroducing early-release program

That statement seems to suggest that it will take IDOC perhaps a month or two to get anything started. We were able to confirm that no obstacles  officially now remain to IDOC implementing the new rules which have been legally approved. Yet, even the IDOC contact person for the rule-making remains unwilling to give any indication of when a release program might start. So, yes, readers can check back here, other sites and media reports daily, but we also suggest keeping current on the IDOC Community Notification Page website (click here) too.

IDOC is required by law to post current inmate information on every individual it releases as it releases inmates. Up through the end of 2012, IDOC was releasing individuals several times during each month. 2013 releases are easy to distinguish so far this month, because of the year change and because there have been relatively few of them. With the exception of one person who was placed on electronic detention from Stateville CC, inmates released this month committed offenses which would not have made them eligible for any early release. Electronic detention is not quite the same as early release, so we can’t say that it plays a part in this individuals position either.

We suggest though, that one way to reduce the effects of the rumor mill and keep your sanity is too keep an eye on the Community Notification Page as well as media reports. When early release does begin, you will see sentence credit time reductions effecting the release dates of non-violent offenders.

 


In our opinion, Quinn repeatedly shows that he is a hypocrite who is unconcerned about the physical welfare of his constituents despite his constant rhetoric to the contrary. Governor Quinn already, single-handedly, since he entered office has caused IL prison inmates and their families to suffer the most severe hardships in decades by first taking away  early release options, and causing severe overcrowding in state prisons during a time of short-staffing and deteriorating facility maintenance. State prisoners are enduring cockroaches, mice, sweltering heat, more and more frequent lockdowns, property confiscations, and reduced rations, but Quinn apparently does not want anyone to know about this or raise their voices to criticize the dire conditions! Nor, does he seem to want to move quickly to reduce the overcrowding and improve prison conditions. Now he is using misdirection to cite security concerns as justification for attempting to impose a news black-out to restrict public access to prison facilities in order to stop the public from finding out any more facts about just how bad state prisons are right now. Quinn claims to be a “democratic” governor promoting governmental “transparency”, but barring the press from the prisons and threatening IDOC staff whistle-blowers with legal prosecution and /or intimidation is nothing short of authoritarian “Big Brother” tactics and reveals just how resentful and insecure he is of criticism, no matter how justified it may be!

Gov. Quinn says journalists no longer allowed inside prisons

SPRINGFIELD — For years, journalists have been granted limited access to periodically tour Illinois prisons, but Gov. Pat Quinn Friday decreed the state’s lockups are off-limits to the media.

“I think that’s a fundamental policy that we will always follow,” Quinn said, citing unspecified security concerns voiced by top prison officials.

The governor, who often touts his administration as “transparent,” issued his decision in the wake of reports by WBEZ radio in Chicago that its reporters had been turned down numerous times in their attempts to confirm allegations of horrendous living conditions at the overcrowded, minimum-security facilities in Vienna and Vandalia.

The Associated Press also reported Friday that the administration declined an Aug. 1 request to visit Pontiac’s segregation unit, where dangerous inmates will be housed when high-security Tamms prison closes Aug. 31.

“We’re not going to have tours of Illinois prisons. I don’t believe in that,” Quinn said. “Security comes first. It isn’t a country club. I think prisons are there to incarcerate criminals. They are not there to be visited and looked at.”

The decision comes as the Illinois Department of Corrections is attempting to house more than 48,000 inmates in a system built to handle about 33,000 prisoners. The John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison watchdog organization, has documented that prisoners are living in squalid conditions at Vienna and Vandalia.

Along with prisoners being packed into basements, common areas and gymnasiums not originally built to house prisoners, the organization found inmates dealing with infestations of mold, cockroaches and other vermin.

In July, a group of inmates at Vienna filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to improve the conditions.

While WBEZ reporters wanted a firsthand look at the situation, Quinn said top prison brass believe tours by reporters make prisons less safe for inmates and prison workers.

“I think it’s important that we listen to those who are on the front lines of the prison,” the governor said.

The policy switch comes after years of the prisons being occasionally opened for media tours.

In 1997, for example, more than 80 people — including 25 state lawmakers and members of the press — were given tours of the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center and the all-female Dwight Correctional Center.

In 2005, then-state Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, led a contingent of lawmakers and reporters on a similar tour of the facilities, giving the public a close-up look at how the facilities were operating.

In a statement issued Friday, Rutherford, now the state treasurer, said he was disappointed by the decision.

“For the governor to deny such access to a prison, and say we should just trust his administration with running state prisons is uncalled for and out of touch,” Rutherford said. “State prisons are taxpayer funded and may be posing safety threats not just to prison staffers and inmates, but also to communities.”

The move to limit access to facilities apparently began earlier this year when state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, was barred from entering the Murphysboro youth prison in his district. He later was allowed entry after news reports highlighted the incident.

Luechtefeld said the new policy is likely more of a way to avoid bad publicity than a safety issue.

“It’s probably a lot about politics,” Luechtefeld said Friday.

The Quinn administration also is cracking down on prison employees talking with the news media. State police investigators were at Tamms Correctional Center last week, reportedly probing the leak of information obtained by the Lee Enterprises Springfield Bureau regarding a plan to ship some dangerous inmates to out-of-state prisons if Quinn gets his way and closes the state’s lone “supermax” facility.

A top prison official also sent a letter to the Lee bureau suggesting that if the names of the inmates being considered for out-of-state placement were printed, guards and inmates could be in danger.

“If you proceed to disclose any information in your possession on this subject beyond yourself, the department will view your actions as attempting to promote disorder within the prison system,” wrote Jerry Buscher, executive chief of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents prison employees, slammed Quinn for the decision.

“Instead of making prisons more crowded and dangerous, and silencing employees and journalists who blow the whistle, the governor should truly listen to what’s best for public safety and those who serve. Like legislators, prison employees are telling him to rescind his closures, layoffs and reckless inmate transfers at once,” the union said in a statement.


Governor Pat Quinn just signed the State budget cuts and still plans to close prisons despite IDOC inmate overcrowding, poor prison conditions and now natural disaster strikes due to weather conditions! What’s next?

Storm damage forces inmate transfer from Dixon

“…SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Storm damage forced the transfer of dozens of maximum-security, mentally ill inmates Saturday, leaving the Dixon prison locked down with emergency generators providing power and prompting the correctional workers’ union to raise more questions about the practicality of Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close penitentiaries in a severely crowded system.

The Department of Corrections transferred 78 inmates from Dixon to segregated cells at the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center after severe weather that rolled through north-central Illinois Friday night ripped up roofs and caused other “significant” damage, spokeswoman Stacey Solano said…”


The IL Senate sent the official budget bills to Governor Pat Quinn yesterday, and Quinn is now announcing that he want to going to go ahead and move money from the IL corrections budget to avoid cuts to DCFS.

Quinn to cut prison funding in hopes of helping DCFS

Quinn has angered a lot of state representatives, particularly downstate reps by what they perceive is a threat to continue to close prison facilities in an attempt to manipulate them into agreeing to pension reform. However, Quinn’s announcement today that he wants to go ahead to close facilities in order to save an already overburdened IL Department of Children and Family Services from additional cuts puts pressure on state legislators to quell their protests due to the dire shape that DCFS is already in:

The $33.7 billion budget landed on the governor’s desk Friday, and he plans to act on it Saturday morning. Quinn told the Tribune he plans to veto spending lawmakers dedicated to several prisons he plans to close.

The administration says it will shut the supermaximum prison near Tamms in far southern Illinois, the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois and juvenile justice centers in Joliet and Murphysboro. Two transitional centers for inmates will close, but the administration has reversed course and plans to leave open one on Chicago’s West Side.

“…About half of the lawmakers’ cut would force the agency to reduce its staff of 2,900 by about 12 percent, or 375 workers. The remainder of the cut would eliminate contracts that provide services to children and families, the agency said. The budget trims by lawmakers came on top of a $35.3 million reduction Quinn had proposed.

The Tribune has reported that the caseloads for DCFS investigators are often double what they should be and in violation of critical terms of a 1991 federal consent decree that sets monthly limits on new cases for investigators. The agency also is failing to inspect more than half of the state’s day care facilities on an annual basis as required by law, the Tribune found…”

The pressure will be on legislators during the fall veto session in November to decide which is the greater public area of concern: prisons or children? If they follow Quinn’s direction, legislators will approve Quinn moving the money to DCFS from prison facilities which will already be closed by then:

“…In November, we’re going to have to support our reductions, and the Legislature may try to override it,” the governor said. “But we are going to lay out a stark choice: Is it protecting children or is it maintaining facilities that don’t need to be open?”


Full Text of Press Release from State of IL, Governor Pat Quinn’s Office website

Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Improve Public Safety and Criminal Justice in Illinois
New Laws Will Crack Down on Crime; Continue to Manage Prison Population and Encourage Positive Behavior

CHICAGO – June 22, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed several new laws that together will improve public safety and criminal justice in Illinois. Senate Bill 2621 increases accountability in the state’s prison system by setting new guidelines that strengthen the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) ability to manage the state’s prison population. Forty-six other states have adopted similar laws, which also encourage non-violent offenders to pursue positive rehabilitation strategies.“Ensuring public safety is my top priority,” Governor Quinn said. “This is good criminal justice policy and good public safety policy that will manage our prison population and make non-violent offenders less likely to commit crime in the future.”SB 2621, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), passed both houses with bi-partisan support and has been endorsed by many criminal justice organizations, including the John Howard Association. The law increases safety inside prisons by allowing DOC to award sentence credit to non-violent offenders who have shown willingness to correct their behavior through successful completion of rehabilitation.Sentencing credit has existed in Illinois law since 1978 but under the new law, inmates would only be eligible to receive sentence credit after serving at least 60 days in DOC custody. Inmates who display appropriate, positive behavior will be reviewed and evaluated by DOC to determine whether they are eligible to receive credit. Under the new law, DOC will consider and evaluate an inmate’s prior offenses, the circumstances of the inmate’s current holding offense, as well as the offender’s potential for rehabilitation prior to the decision to award sentencing credit. DOC will also have the right to revoke credit if an inmate demonstrates negative or violent behavior. As a result of the Governor’s 2009 Crime Reduction Act, there will also be a risk assessment tool in place this year to ensure that sentences are administered according to individual evaluation of the inmate.

SB 2621 also increases transparency by requiring DOC to provide annual reports to the Governor and General Assembly containing program statistics, how the new policies are being implemented and how sentence credit is being awarded. Additionally, county state’s attorneys, county sheriffs and the committing county will receive notification two weeks prior to an inmate’s release.

In order to qualify for sentencing credit, inmates will be required to successfully complete rehabilitation treatments, which could include substance abuse treatment, adult education, and behavior modification or life skills programs. Inmates may also receive sentence credit for passing the Test of General Educational Development (GED) while in DOC custody.

“Presenting inmates with an additional incentive for good behavior will improve the environment inside our facilities and allow the department to focus our efforts on violent criminals,” said Illinois Department of Corrections Director S.A. “Tony” Godinez. “Eligible inmates will now have the benefit of receiving sentence credit appropriately and responsibly as the department continues to look for effective, safe and secure methods of managing state prisons.”

SB 2621 is effective immediately.

Governor Quinn also signed additional laws to increase public safety and protect children from predators. Senate Bill 3579, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), prohibits sex offenders from participating in holiday celebrations where minors are present, for example handing out candy on Halloween. The law goes into effect Jan. 1. Senate Bill 3809, sponsored by Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) and Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville), enables park districts to have criminal background checks performed to determine whether a job applicant is a delinquent minor for committing certain offenses, such as sexual assault. The law goes into effect immediately.

Senate Bill 3258, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Scott Penny (D-Belleville), clarifies violations included in the Sex Offender Registry, and prevents arrest records for reckless driving from being sealed before the offender reaches the age of 25. The law goes into effect Jan. 1. House Bill 4590, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) and Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), adds new information, such as known gang affiliations, to inmate record files housed at the Department of Corrections. The law is effective immediately.

Update: The IL Department of Correction maintains a Questions and Answers area on it’s website to familiarize visitors with department policies and procedures. The new law passed regarding sentence credits will cause IDOC to revise some of the information posted in that section about good time credits. For now, IDOC has updated that section with the following statement:

Please note: in accordance with Public Act 97-0697 (effective 6/22/2012) the above types of credit have been amended along with other changes.  The Department has started examining and identifying policies and/or rules for revisions that may need to be promulgated through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

This statement is the best indicator so far as to how long it will take IDOC to release any inmates early. Since it states that changes will have to be made, you can pretty much bet that the department will not act quickly to release anyone. It will more likely take until sometime after the November elections before early releases get started.