Posts Tagged ‘MGT’


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.

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 The  John Howard Association was one of the main organizations that wrote SB2621. This fact sheet is from their website theJHA.org and answers a lot of questions readers are asking about how sentence credits will work and who will be eligible for them:

What you need to know about SB 2621

SB 2621 is a piece of criminal justice reform legislation that passed the Illinois Senate and House in the spring 2012 legislative session. This is a significant victory for both the John Howard Association (JHA), which was one of the chief advocates for the bill, and for safe, smart, and cost-effective prison reform. If Governor Quinn signs this bill into law, it will establish a responsible early release program to ease prison overcrowding that will replace Meritorious Good Time (MGT), the 30-year-old good conduct credit program that was suspended in early 2010.

What will SB 2621 do?

As of May 2012, Illinois housed more than 48,000 inmates in a prison system designed for about 34,000. While almost every facility struggles with its population, the worst crowding is in the state’s minimum and medium security prisons, which house mostly low-level offenders. This kind of crowding endangers not only inmates, but also the thousands of staff that work in the state’s correctional institutions.

SB 2621 will address these problems by authorizing the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) to award up to 180 days of Sentence Credits to low-level offenders for completing educational programs, taking part in community service, or demonstrating good behavior. This is a standard tool that prison systems across the country use to control behavior and encourage participation in programs that reduce recidivism.

How is SB 2621 different from MGT?

SB 2621 will mandate several key improvements designed to protect public safety, including the following:

  • SB 2621 will authorize DOC to consider an inmate’s entire criminal history when awarding Sentence Credits, which includes prior offenses, the “facts and circumstances of the inmate’s holding offenses,” and the “potential for rehabilitation.” Under MGT, such consideration was impossible.
  • SB 2621 will authorize DOC to award Sentence Credits for completing a broad range of programs in county and state custody, from GED classes to life skills courses. MGT recognized only a limited number of programs and excluded county jail programming from consideration.
  • SB 2621 will require DOC to publish a public report detailing how it awards Sentence Credits. This requirement will provide an exceptional level of transparency to ensure DOC is awarding Credits in a way that is consistent with the bill’s intent and the promotion of public safety. MGT lacked a comparable level of transparency.

Will every inmate be eligible for 180 days of Sentence Credits?

No. While SB 2621 will authorize DOC to consider offenders’ criminal histories in awarding Sentence Credits, it will also limit and exclude the following offenses (as was the case under MGT):

No persons who are committed for the following offenses shall be awarded more than 90 days of Sentence Credits during a term of incarceration: first degree murder, reckless homicide while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, deviate sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated indecent liberties with a child, indecent liberties with a child, child pornography, heinous battery, aggravated battery of a spouse, aggravated battery of a spouse with a firearm, stalking, aggravated stalking, aggravated battery of a child, endangering the life or health of a child, cruelty to a child, or narcotic racketeering.

No persons who are serving a sentence for a conviction for any of the following offenses committed on or after August 20, 1995, shall be awarded any Sentence Credits:

First degree murder, attempt to commit first degree murder, solicitation of murder, solicitation of murder for hire, intentional homicide of an unborn child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, aggravating battery with a firearm, heinous battery, aggravated battery of a senior citizen, aggravated battery of a child, habitual juvenile offenders, violent juvenile offenders; or home invasion, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated discharge of a firearm, or armed violence with a category 1 weapon or category II weapon, when the court has entered a finding that the conduct leading to conviction for the offense resulted in great bodily harm to a victim.

How long will it be before DOC is ready to start awarding Sentence Credits?

Before SB 2621 goes to the Governor, it must be certified by both the House and Senate. Once it is certified, the bill must be sent to the Governor within 30 days. When the Governor receives the bill, he will then have 60 days to sign it.

Once SB 2621 is signed into law, DOC will have to create and promulgate new administrative rules that will govern its application.

How many inmates would receive Sentence Credits?

As of now, that number is unclear–but it will likely be a smaller class of people who received MGT based on the new factors DOC will be able to consider when awarding or denying Credits.

Who supported SB 2621?

SB 2621 had significant bi-partisan support in the General Assembly. In the Senate, it passed 55-1 and was sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D), Thomas Johnson (R), Michael Noland (D), John J. Millners (R), Mattie Hunter (D), Pamela J. Althoff (R), Annazette R. Collins (D), and William Delgado (D). While he was not an official sponsor, Senate President Cullerton played an essential role in passing the bill.

In the House, SB2621 passed 68-50 and was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D), Jim Sacia (R), Kelly M. Cassidy (D), Arthur Turner (D), Kimberly du Buclet (D), Rita Mayfield (D), La Shawn K. Ford (D), Esther Golar (D), Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. (D), Scott E. Penny (D), Charles E. Jefferson (D), Karen May (D), Naomi D. Jakobsson (D), and Monique D. Davis (D).

Supporting organizations include: John Howard Association, Metropolis Strategies, ACLU of Illinois, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, A Safe Haven, Appleseed Foundation, Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM), Protestants for the Common Good, Roosevelt University’s Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Roosevelt’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, Safer Foundation, TASC, Youth Advocate Programs, Coalition for Prison Reform, Illinois Prison Talk, and League of Women Voters of Illinois.

What can I do to support safe, cost-effective criminal justice reform?

Contact Governor Quinn and tell him to sign SB 2621 into law.

Contact your state Senator and Representative. Thank them if they voted yes, and if they voted no, tell them you’re disappointed. We’re going to need bi-partisan support to continue to reform Illinois’ criminal justice system. You can find your legislators here and how your legislators voted here.

Updated June 4, 2012

 Be sure to donate generously to the John Howard Association and support them for the work they did on this bill and the work they do every day monitoring conditions at each of the State of IL prisons.


It’s official! As anticipated, the IL House has now passed Senate Bill 2621, by a vote of 68 -50, authorizing the Department of Corrections to issue sentence credits which can lead to the early release for inmates eligible under the terms of the bill. The bill will now head to Governor Pat Quinn for possible signature. Quinn has 60 days to either sign it or indicate his opposition to it. While this is great news for all incarcerated in the overcrowded IL state prisons, the bill still needs Quinn’s approval and then to be implememented. It is unknown right now if Quinn will sign the bill into law; he has not indicated past support for the bill or any inclination that he will work to implement any form of early release. If signed the law will head to Rules and Regulations for work before IDOC changes are begun. As we have said before, even in the most optimistic scenario, readers should not look for any sentence shortening to begin till after the November 2012 elections and possibly even some time in 2013. Still, this is wonderful and long anticipated news! Congradulations to everyone who has worked so hard for so long to try to reinstate some form or early release for IL inmates!

Here is the link to the whole piece of SB 2621`legislation. Readers will have to scrutinize it carefully to determine just who is eligible for what.

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=2621&GAID=11&DocTypeID=SB&LegId=62972&SessionID=84&GA=97</a

Bill Synopis:

Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Changes the references to "good conduct credit" and "early release" on felony sentences to "sentence credit", and the references to "good conduct for meritorious service" to "sentence credit for good conduct". Provides that the Department of Corrections shall provide annual reports to the Governor and General Assembly on award, amount, holding offenses, and revocation of sentence credit for good conduct. Provides that the rules and regulations for sentence credit shall provide that the sentence credit accumulated and retained by an inmate during specific periods of time in which the inmate is engaged full-time in behavior modification programs or life skills courses and satisfactorily completes the assigned program as determined by the standards of the Department of Corrections shall be multiplied by a factor of 1.50 for program participation. Provides that the rules and regulations shall also provide that sentence credit, subject to the same offense limits and multiplier, may be provided to an inmate who was held in pre-trial detention prior to his or her current commitment to the Department of Corrections and successfully completed a full-time 60 day or longer substance abuse program, educational program, behavior modification program, or life skills course provided by a county department of corrections or county jail. Requires the county program credit to be calculated at sentencing and included in the sentencing order. Deletes prohibition on an inmate receiving additional sentence credit for time spent in an educational or training program if the inmate previously served more than one prior sentence for a felony in an adult correctional facility. Provides that the Department may also award 60 days of sentence credit to any committed person who passed the high school level Test of General Educational Development (GED) while he or she was held in pre-trial detention prior to the current commitment to the Department of Corrections. Provides that the Department's rules and regulations for revoking sentence credit, includes revocation of sentence credit for good conduct. Effective upon becoming law.

Senate Floor Amendment No. 4
Provides that eligible inmates for an award of sentence credit for specific instances of good conduct may be selected to receive the credit at the Director's or his or her designee's sole discretion. Provides that consideration may be based on, but not limited to, any available risk-assessment analysis on the inmate, any history of conviction for violent crimes as defined by the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, facts and circumstances of the inmate's holding offense or offenses, and the potential for rehabilitation. Restores language that no inmate shall be eligible for the additional good conduct credit in which the inmate is engaged full-time in substance abuse programs, correctional industry assignments, educational programs, behavior modification programs, life skills courses, or re-entry planning who (i) has previously received increased good conduct credit for that participation and has subsequently been convicted of a felony, or (ii) has previously served more than one prior sentence of imprisonment for a felony in an adult correctional facility.


State of the state

James Krohe Jr.

Gov. Quinn takes a pass on early prison release plan

by Jamey Dunn

Instead of using what arguably was the biggest scandal during his time in office as a chance to reform a broken system, Gov. Pat Quinn stuck his head in the sand as Illinois’ prison population reached an all-time high.

An escalated version of the Meritorious Good Time early prisoner release program, dubbed MGT “Push,” became the subject of controversy in 2009 and a talking point for Republicans during the 2010 general election. The Associated Press uncovered an administrative tweak to the program that allowed prisoners to apply credit for good behavior to their sentences almost immediately. Previously, the Illinois Department of Corrections had required prisoners to wait 61 days before using any such credits. Under MGT Push, the waiting period was changed to 11 days. So, many of those sentenced to short terms were released before they moved on to the corrections system.

The state released 1,745 prisoners under MGT Push. On average, they served 36 fewer days than their sentences. The AP found that some inmates released under the plan had violent records. The DOC also failed to properly notify local law enforcement officials when prisoners were being released. In some cases, notification was not given at all. According to a report from Quinn’s office: “MGT Push resulted in the earlier release of hundreds of inmates, including more than 100 serving sentences for violent offenses, after as few as 11 days in DOC custody.” The revelation resulted in negative press for Quinn heading into his first bid to be elected governor.

So he did what any politician — and reasonable executive — would do in the same situation. He halted all early release programs and ordered a top to bottom review. Quinn brought in Judge David Erickson to work on a panel that took a look at the Meritorious Good Time program. Erickson concluded that the Quinn administration had taken a flawed program and made it worse. The report said that the focus of the program should be a rewards system meant to encourage good behavior and a desire for rehabilitation, not just a way to cut down on numbers. “The department must fundamentally change its attitude and approach toward MGT credit awards. Despite Illinois’ dire economic state and the very real need to maximize control of facilities, these programs should not simply be population pressure release valves; they must be, first and foremost, a means to incent and reward good conduct that shows a genuine rehabilitative intent. This will not only benefit the individual inmate but also the community he or she will reenter.”

At the time of the report, Quinn vowed to fix the program. “These problems at the Department of Corrections are systemic, they’re longstanding, there’s lots of flaws, they need to be corrected. And I’m going to do that,” Quinn said. But two years later, the DOC has no plans to start a new-and-improved Meritorious Good Time program in the foreseeable future. As a result, advocates say that overcrowding, especially at lower security prisons, is getting worse. According to a spokesperson for the DOC, the prison population has not substantially changed since it reached its peak of 48,743 in May 2011. An October quarterly report from the department projects that the population will reach 49,615 by September 2012.

Malcolm Young, who serves on an advisory board for DOC, says that after the MGT Push scandal, word from the Quinn administration was that there were plans to reform and relaunch the Meritorious Good Time Program, but he says “nothing materialized.”

Young, who is also director of the Program for Prison Reentry Strategies with the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law, says: “The fact that it hasn’t been done yet, it’s actually kind of mind boggling.”

“When a window for reform opens, it can close very quickly,” says John Maki, executive director of the John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison watchdog group.

Maki says that in the wake of the MGT Push scandal, the idea of reinstating an early release program is a nonstarter with the Quinn administration. “It is dead,” he says. “It’s politically poisonous.” Maki and other advocates argue that the program has been in use in Illinois since the 1970s as a way to control prison populations as well as encourage good behavior from prisoners. “MGT was around for 30-plus years. It was something that administrations from both parties used. It was noncontroversial. … This is a standard practice in corrections.”

He says that overcrowding in Illinois prisons is by no means caused by the lack of an early release program for the last two years. He says the problem is a result of “decades of bad laws and policies” that will take a “multi-pronged solution” to tackle. However, he says that reinstating the Meritorious Good Time program could help to address serious problems at some of the state’s minimum- and medium-security lockups. “The minimum [security prisons] don’t tend to get a lot of press and don’t get a lot of attention.” But Maki says his group, which tours correctional facilities and issues reports on them, has found “inhumane” conditions at some of the lower security facilities. He says these offenders, who are often not locked up for violent crimes, would be the ideal candidates for early release based on good behavior.

He points to the association’s review of the Vandalia Correctional Center in 2011. The minimum-security prison was designed to hold 1,100 but instead holds 1,748. The state considers the prison to be at operational capacity. However, when association monitors visited the facility, inmates were housed in standing water in rain-flooded basements. The association’s report links the conditions directly to the state’s lack of a Meritorious Good Time program. “[John Howard Association monitors] found the conditions in these lower-level dormitory basements to be unsafe, unsanitary and unacceptable. The blame lies not with Vandalia’s administration, however, but with the Illinois governor and legislature, who created this deplorable situation. The suspension of Meritorious Good Time credit (MGT) in December 2010 by the Illinois governor has greatly exacerbated prison overcrowding — particularly in minimum- security facilities like Vandalia, whose low-level, non-violent offender populations are most affected by MGT’s suspension. Despite this crisis in overcrowding, the governor and legislature have refused to address the issue or take prudent action to replace MGT,” the report said.

“As a direct result of MGT’s suspension, Vandalia was forced to absorb more than 300 additional inmates into a facility already bursting at its seams with a population that far exceeds its design capacity. Consequently, the only place to house the additional inmates is in dormitory basements, which [monitors] found to be neither safe nor suitable as living quarters.”

Maki said that during a recent visit to the Vienna Correctional Center, another minimum-security prison, monitors found a similar situation, with inmates being housed in a lower level that had broken windows and was infested with cockroaches, birds and mice. According to the DOC, Vienna, which was designed to hold 925, has a population of 1,902. The state says that the prison has a so-called operational capacity of 1,887. As of press time, the John Howard Association had yet to release its report on the Vienna facility.

The state’s classification of operational capacity started popping up in reports last year. It is defined in DOC reports as “the maximum number of inmates a facility can hold.” The “design” or “rated” capacity of a facility is the capacity of the institution when it was built. The design capacity of the state corrections system is 33,703, but the operational capacity is 51,229. So according to the DOC, there’s room left.

“We’re not there yet,” says Sharyn Elman, a spokeswoman for DOC. “We’re still maintaining our numbers under that threshold.” Elman said Quinn’s administration knows there is work to be done. She says DOC is focusing on other tools, such as Adult Redeploy Illinois. That program is based on the successful juvenile model, which seeks to rehabilitate offenders through community programs, such as addiction counseling, instead of prison time.

However, Maki, Young and Erickson agree that good time credits can be used as a tool to reward positive behavior in prisoners and encourage them to work toward rehabilitation.

“Illinois is pretty much at a crisis in terms of overcrowding. I think that it’s not being acknowledged by the administration,” Young says. While the state seems to have adopted a policy of denial when it comes to the problems in its corrections system, Illinoisans are also culpable. We cannot have unrealistic expectations of our state. We must demand that our government act in a competent, humane and open way. What we cannot demand is that it protects us from every evil that could potentially befall us. But few of us want to live in a society that locks up all criminals and throws away the key. And even if we do, we simply cannot afford it unless we want to fund nothing but prison costs.

Unfortunately, this forces us to confront inherent risks of our society. Some criminals will reform, and some will reoffend. Focused screening and requirements for early release, which exclude violent offenders from eligibility, and programs that can help inmates make the difficult transition back into society can improve the odds. But we have to accept that some people who get out will offend again and sometimes even violently.

Maki says that public backlash over scandals in the criminal justice system stem from the basic human desire of all individuals “wanting to protect themselves, their families and their loved ones.” However, he says that instead of being reactionary, we must look to what works. “Incarcerating this many people does not keep you safe,’’ because prisoners at present lack access to rehabilitation programs.

While half-baked plans such as MGT Push, which was carried out sloppily and without public notifications, spur righteous outrage, such high profile scandals should not bar the way for effective policies geared toward real goals: encouraging rehabilitation, improving prison conditions and spending less money on incarceration. It seems the Meritorious Good Time program needs some work, as well as some changes to the law, to become focused on such goals. But having survived the scandal of MGT Push, Quinn could be just the guy to get the ball rolling.

Illinois Issues, January 2012

Yes, Early Release is possible, but will it happen?

After many false hopes and promises, for the first time since December 2009, it looks like the legal mechanism or fix required to allow the IL Department of Corrections (IDOC) to reinstate some form of early release for certain, well-behaved, non-violent prisoners will happen shortly. In the next few days, through a ground-swell of bipartisan effort, the Illinois legislature will likely show it’s compassion for the thousands of Illinois inmates and their families who have suffered prison overcrowding and worsening prison conditions simply because they have been stuck in IDOC at the wrong time, after Governor Pat Quinn’s suspension of all IDOC awarding of Meritorious Good Time credits (MGT)(which previously allowed prisoner sentences to be shortened).

The state legislature’s action is a tribute to the many individuals and organizations which have worked so hard to educate our legislative members regarding the punitive nature and counter-productive effects of Quinn’s actions in eliminating MGT. Just about everybody dealing with some aspect of the state criminal justice system devoted their time and energies to contacting legislators and encouraging them to piece together the individual aspects of Senate Bill 2621. The bill is likely to squeak by and pass both houses before the May 31st end of the legislative session. (Read article below)

Revamped Illinois prison release plan moves to House

The real question is: Will Senate Bill 2621 be signed and implemented by Governor Pat Quinn?

Senate Bill 2621 has a lot of fanfare going for it, but it will not be the panacea for anyone serving less than a year in IDOC now. Readers with a short sentence cannot depend on the Governor either signing the bill or implementing it. Quinn will have up to six months to decide if he wants to sign the bill into law in the first place. While he is likely to face public pressure to sign the bill, Quinn has been known to procrastinate to the max when he really does not want to do something, and it has become apparent to many observers that Governor Quinn does not like the idea of any early release program going into effect under his stewardship.

All along, Governor Quinn has really been arguably two-faced about the reinstatement of MGT or any sort of early release program. As the January 2012, Illinois Issues article above points out, whenever prodded, Quinn has paid lip-service to the urgency of IDOC resolving the issue of the MGT suspension. Yet, time after time, IDOC under Quinn failed to develop any program or take any of the steps needed to reinstate early release. When finally cornered, the Quinn administration countered with the assertion that he could not authorize any early release program permitting eligibility to any violent offender.

Well, Senate Bill 2621 and state legislators, naively or otherwise, are calling Quinn’s bluff, by giving him law to enforce which will meet the provisions which Quinn set forth for early release. It remains to be seen how Quinn will respond. Our bet is that Quinn will delay signage of the bill at least for several months and then implement it slowly, if at all. Our guesstimation is that readers should not look for an implementation of early release before this November and more probably not until sometime in 2013. Our impression is that Quinn believes that he fulfilled his obligation to state prisoners when he abolished the Death Penalty in IL, and that he feels that the rest of state prisoners are responsible for where they happen to be. We are certain that Quinn will continue to come up with plenty of sleight-of-hand excuses to distract us from his deliberate inaction regarding early release and worsening prison conditions.

In the meantime, hard-won legislative victories such as Senate Bill 2621 are really few and far between, so give yourselves some applause!

 

 


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

Governor Quinn Announces Active Community Care Transition Plan
Rebalancing Plan Will Increase Community Care Options for People with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions


Illinois prisontalk (IPT) is critical of anyone spreading rumors about when Meritorious Good Time (MGT) credit is likely to return for IL prisoners. IPT doesn’t want to create false expectations among IL inmates and their families. This past Spring session, however, IPT online forum leaders succumbed to temptation and  disregarded IPT’s own goal. IPT engaged it’s members in a misguided effort to contact legislators to support passage of specific criminal bills in the General Assembly which had no effect on the reinstatement of MGT but only served to toughen criminal penalties on offenders. Fortunately, most of the bills IPT advocated passing in Spring died at the end of the legislative session.

With the general, prevailing, public opinion being anti-offender and pro-punishment, IL General Assembly members need no additional encouragement to toughen criminal penalties and send more people to prison. Instead, legislators and local courts and counties need to understand that no matter how much money we spend housing prisoners and getting offenders off the streets for any maximum length of time, our capacity to hold prisoners in IL is finite, and ultimately they will return to our communities. If they are merely warehoused and all rehabilitation efforts made are only lip-service; then they return to our communities better criminals than when they left with no incentive to change; and the whole vicious cycle starts all over again. IL already virtually tops the list of our nation’s states for it’s incarcerate numbers. At this time of stubborn recession, state taxpayers and society cannot afford to foot this bill.

The IL fall legislative veto session to due to get underway on October 25, 2011. It consists of six short days in which major legislative budgetary issues from the past year still remain to be resolved. Again, during the last couple of weeks, the IPT online forum was abuzz with advice by IPT that new legislation regarding MGT was to be drawn up and passed during the fall veto session. As the message now posted at IPT indicates, this was merely rumor. There is no possibility that any Corrections bills dealing with the MGT issue will be considered at the fall session. As, we have previously advised, no legislative changes will occur to resolve the overcrowding in the IL Department of Corrections (IDOC) or promote any sort of “early release” initiatives until the Spring legislative session in 2012, at the earliest.

We have said that Governor Pat Quinn, retains control over what happens at IDOC and over any departmental initiatives to relieve state prison over-crowding. This remains accurate. Quinn could reinstate MGT in some form, if he chose to. What has become increasingly apparent over time is that Quinn, having taken political heat from first attempting to increase the release of state prisoners, is not going to stick his neck out again on this issue. Consequently, he has not been responsive to pressure to reinstate MGT in any form until he is ready. Moreover, Quinn has demonstrated a habit of extreme rationalization to justify his political opportunism. He has reneged on agreements made to political allies when politically expedient to do so, simply on the belief that he will get what he wants in the short-term and can afford to leave the rest for the courts to sort out down the road. Perhaps this is the legacy of Rod Blagovich, who also operated in the same manner when he was governor; just with more flamboyance.

What this means is that Quinn is unlikely to do anything progressive to resolve prison condition problems and overcrowding until the last minute and even then, only if he is forced to so by lawsuits and legal actions. He will not be willing to compromise. So prison reform advocate groups such those which IPT are allied with are going to have to do more than advocate for the return of MGT; they are going to have to sue the state. We suggest that the sooner they prepare to do so the better!

« on: October 20, 2011, 08:43:24 PM »

Hello members:

For those with their hopes set high that MGT will be reinstated anytime soon this isn’t good news.  It’s time to wipe away the past rumors, pending legislation, and speculations of the restoral of MGT in 2011.  It’s not going to happen.  The past pending legislation wasn’t really legislation that would’ve restored MGT anyway….it was just legislation to toughen up the criteria for those released IF it’s ever restored.  It makes little difference whether it was passed or not.

The ultimate decision lands on Gov. Quinn, who has expressed many times that he’s not about to restore MGT any time soon…if ever.  It’s a political timebomb that he’s unlikely to put himself within arm’s reach again.  He likes his job.

So we’re going to clean the slate and start again in Square 1.  Forget everything that has happened in the past…

Everyone knows and agrees that the IDOC is crowded…this isn’t the first time it’s been overcrowded and it hasn’t exploded yet.  If the IDOC and Quinn were worried about rioting or anything else explosive they have alternatives to release inmates….regardless of MGT.

Just because nothing was resolved in 2011 it hasn’t stopped a handful of activists that are still hoping to move the Governor to restore MGT.  They are preparing to draft legislation that will be introduced in the Spring session…

It’s impossible to get it included in the Fall session of the Legislature.  It must wait until Spring and it’s going to need backing from the public.  This informal group of activists met recently to discuss the best possible plan of action and this will begin with a public meeting to discuss overcrowding within the IDOC…probably in late November or early December.  We will notify you of the date and particulars when they are decided upon.  Encouraging attempts are being made to sign on legislators to sponsor this new bill.

Let me remind you that even with successful legislation Quinn still has the ultimate power to approve the restoration of MGT.

Suggestions are being formulated for the contents of  this bill, including a revision of MGT as it was previously implemented, and the criteria for inmates to receive MGT/SMGT.

There is nothing carved in stone so please don’t speculate or ask a thousand questions….there’s nothing more to tell you.

In the meantime the IDOC may possibly solve some of it’s own problems by finding creative ways to release inmates earlier than scheduled…if so, we know nothing about it and don’t want to hear all the rumors again.  Look what all the rumors have done in the past 20 months?  There’ve been a thousand posts here about it…and plenty of arguments and bickering over something that everyone hopes will benefit our inmates.

If inmates are released early, for whatever reason, that’s something to celebrate.

When MGT was suspended I cautioned everyone here that it would be an uphill battle and that it wasn’t likely that MGT would be restored.  I still stand by that….but there’s always hope as influential people are working on a solution.  When the time is right they will ask for our help here at IPT and we’ll keep you informed how you might help.

Daz


May 31, 2012, State Legislature passes new law paving way for Early Release programs! Read latest at http://richardwanke.com

 

Forget about the IL Fall Veto Session beginning October 25, 2011. The veto session is going to be consumed by budget issues. No decisions made will resolve the horrible prison over-crowding in Illinois. If Meritorious Good Time (MGT) is even mentioned by legislators, it will not be in the context of them having the power to resurrect it.

Governor Pat Quinn is the person with the ability to act to reduce the present prison population in some manner; and he has chosen not to act until possibly 2012. Sharon Ellman, a spokesperson for the IL Department of Corrections has stated multiple times that there is presently no plan for MGT to return. Well, we are getting the idea that she is correct.

Governor Pat Quinn has had plenty on his plate this year with the budget occupying his attention. He apparently does not regard the denial of MGT or any supplemental credit for inmates (even minor offenders) to be a hardship on inmates or MGT something they are deserving of. So, he is not now considering any action to reduce the prison population.  Truth is, with his proposed cuts and closures, he may feel there is room to squeeze in more bodies into some state facilities.

The only action on the IL Department of Corrections agenda is the combination of all their 49 or so separate computer and data sources into one database in conjunction with the Microsoft Offender 360 software program it is adapting. This process of computer changeover has been going on for awhile now, and lots of inmates report that facility computers are mostly crashing down for extended periods of time because of problems in the changeover. Since the computers are relied upon by CO’s for just about everything, inmates are going weeks and some times multiple months without access to commissary, and movement and supply restrictions are being arbitrarily applied when the computers cannot be accessed.

The database integration to Offender 360 is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2012. Who knows when, since it is likely to be delayed as more problems will arise.

Don’t expect Quinn to plan or authorize any meaningful early release of inmates until the computer switchover is completed. Quinn’s indifference to the prison over-crowding issues won’t end until he is either sure all Corrections procedures and technology is in place to handle releasing anyone without mistakes being made, or else he is publicly pressured to act.

Quinn has put himself out there to battle with the legislature to get more money for this year’s budget. We encourage readers to contact legislators and give them your perspective as to why he should be criticized and held accountable for numerous mistakes including inaction on prison overcrowding issues.

The next step on the state improvement agenda, after fixing Offender 360, is devising a new audit and accounting system to implement across the board for all state agencies (which now each maintain their own antiquated and costly systems). We certainly don’t want to wait for that computer change…


The ILprisontalk.com  website was down all day and just recently came back up tonight. While it was down, the website administrators removed all mention of and posts of the campaign ILprisontalk.com waged since May 25, 2011, during which it urged it’s readers to contact legislators and urge them to pass the four pending bills dealing with correction issues which the legislature had not yet been able to pass this session. ILprisontalk removed 14 pages of postings and instead left this message in their place:

__________________________________________

IPT Members,

Since late 2009 and early 2010, we have been a constant state of confusion over the suspension and return of MGT. Rumors have plagued this site, resulting in dashed hopes and even heated arguments. No one who understands and values IPT wants that.

Nothing has changed with MGT. We still know nothing. Only Governor Quinn knows when or how it will return. And he isn’t giving out any information. The administrators and staff of IPT have nothing new to give as far as information, though, like many of you, we pray MGT is returned soon.

IPT cares deeply for the concerns of its members, but having an endless and stressful discussion does little good. Besides the petition, which you are encouraged to sign, and a great series of reports, this board is now closed. No posts will be allowed, except from the administrators of IPT. If you post a new topic, it will be removed.

When the administrators of IPT receive any concrete news concerning MGT, it will be posted for all members to see as promised.

_____________________________________________

This action can only be interpreted as the realization by ILprisontalk that, as we stated in our May 25, 2011, post questioning the wisdom of their campaign, that urging the passage of these specific correctional pending bills only works to harm the interests of IL inmates and does nothing to hasten the return or reinstatement the awarding of Meritorious Good Time Credits (MGT) by the IL Department of Corrections (IDOC).  Reader posts on ILprisontalk indicated that state legislators began responding that a separate effort is underway within IDOC to reinstate MGT; one that will just take more time, not more “get tough on crime” legislation.

IDOC and state of IL officials already said previously that work to devise a new program and revise internal department procedures within IDOC so as to permit the return of MGT as soon as possible, has been the top priority within IDOC for some time. It was outdated computer equipment and faulty procedures which were cited in the Erickson Report as the primary culprits for IDOC’s suspension of MGT in the first place. IDOC started updating it’s entire computer system with the new Microsoft 360 Offender software sometime ago and revising internal procedures. IDOC will continue with this work, and independent of whatever bills may or may not pass this legislative session, it is this updating process within IDOC which will determine when MGT is finally reinstated. Governor Quinn will not reinstate MGT until he feels confident that the agency will not repeat it’s internal errors and release any inmate earlier than required to do so if it finds that they may be a safety risk to the public.

July 1, 2011, has been tossed around in discussions as to a possible date by which changes within IDOC will be complete enough to permit Quinn to reinstate MGT. July 1, 2011, remains just a guess at this point, no better than any other, and we place no reliance upon it, because nothing official has issued from or within IDOC to show that it is the date that MGT will return. Something official would need to issue about now in order for IDOC to re-implement on July 1, 2011, something as big an action as the reinstatement of MGT. At least one legislative press release mentions MGT issues not being taken up by legislators until their return in November 2011.

ILprisontalk has been highly critical of individuals posting “rumors” on it’s website claiming that MGT will return at one point or the other. It has been quick to ban certain posters of that information from further posting on it’s website, including the one poster who tried to alert ILprisontalk that it’s campaign to urge readers to help pass anti-inmate legislative bills was misguided. We hope that ILprisontalk will now recognize that it also got caught up in the “rumor-mill” and be upfront with it’s readers and clarify the reason for dropping it’s recent campaign for urging passage of these bills. We hope it will not leave it’s readers wondering what is going on and what happened to these bills: SB 1341, SB 1560, SB 1561, SB 1562. Deadlines for actions on all four bills were extended to May 31, 2011, as a result of the IPT campaign, but fortunately, chances remain low that any of them will pass before this legislative session ends due to higher legislative priorities.


Attention:

This evening IL prisontalk (IPT) sent a letter to all it’s members advising them the contact their local representatives and get them to sign on to sponsor and pass four bills which have stagnated in the IL General Assembly this session and which are in danger of not passing due to lack of support from legislators.

We, at this website, understand the urgency behind everyone wanting inmates in the IL Department of Corrections to once again begin receiving Meritorious Good Time (MGT) to reduce the length of their sentences. We want MGT to return too and we also want it to return as soon as possible. However, we have noted all too often how lots of people equate any bill which mentions or proposes to alter laws or legislation related to MGT, and which happens to be introduced into the General Assembly, as a bill which will either reinstate MGT or help it return. IN ACTUALITY, THIS WILL NEVER BE THE CASE.!!! The current legislative session is almost over. All bills have been introduced, and THERE IS NOT ONE BILL PENDING WHICH AUTHORIZES THE RETURN OF MGT!!!!

MGT will not return due to anything that happens this session in the General Assembly. MGT will return when it returns, and that means that it will return when Governor Quinn is confident that the agency under his control, the IL Department of Corrections (IDOC) can once again issue MGT to inmates without making a mistake and accidentally releasing someone back into the community who is dangerous and who will commit a crime for which IDOC and Quinn can be blamed.

So, what does THAT mean?  What it means, in our opinion, is that Quinn does not care if these 4 bills mentioned below in the IPT letter are passed or not. What it means is that Quinn only cares that he has systematically raked over IDOC and restructured it’s staff, equipment (updated computers), and procedures so as to ensure that when MGT is reinstated that no one under his control will screw up again and make the same mistake they made before he suspended the MGT push program. Quinn wants no more embarrassments, so no matter what the legislators do, he will not reinstate MGT until he feels IDOC is ready to handle it.

So, for this reason, while we are posting this letter by IL prisontalk; that we cannot endorse it’s call to action. We cannot advise any of us readers to respond to it and do as IL prisontalk asks.

We have carefully examined the ramifications of what IL prisontalk is advocating that it’s members do, and we do not like them. Basically, here is why:

ILprisontalk is an organization which is highly regarded as an advocate for the rights of IL prisoners. These bills which it is advocating to be passed, are not bills which will help out the situation or requirements placed on IL inmates. These bills are restrictive bills which will diminish the rights of IL inmates. They are also unnecessary bills, since it was long ago determined that there is no problem with the laws already on the books regarding Meritorious Good Time; it is simply that IDOC screwed up in 2009 in implementing a program. There is no reason to push to pass new, more restrictive laws. They will not stop IDOC from making mistakes again.

IPT’s proposed action will only serve to legitimize the fear-mongering that state politicians continue to use to whip the public up against crime, time after time. Right now, state legislators apparently don’t have the support (even among themselves) to pass these four bills, because they have bigger budget issues which they are focused on. IPT’s action will give them the support to claim that they not only have a “public mandate” to act on public safety and pass these bills, but that they also have the support of opponents who are usually against these type of bills which add restrictions on to prisoners. State legislators will now be able to claim that even advocates for prisoners apparently believe that tougher laws are required in order to protect the public. This means that they will be even more vocal against the rights of “criminals” in the future.

Look at each of the bills below:

Synopsis As Introduced

SB1560
Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that the Department of Corrections shall establish uniform procedures for providing timely advance notice of early release of inmates to law enforcement in local jurisdictions and shall submit a report to the General Assembly, by January 1, 2012, of those notice procedures. Provides that the 14-day advance notice of early release of an inmate because of the award of good conduct credit for meritorious service shall be provided to the Governor and sheriff of the county where the prosecution took place. Effective immediately.

SB 1341
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that the Director of Corrections shall not award good conduct credit for meritorious service to an inmate unless the inmate has served a minimum of 60 days in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Effective immediately.

SB1561
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that the Department of Corrections shall prescribe rules and regulations for revoking good conduct credit awarded for meritorious service. Effective immediately.

SB1562
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Unified Code of Corrections. Provides that the Director of Corrections shall provide the Governor with monthly written reports, and the General Assembly with an annual written report, on the award of good conduct credit for meritorious service. Provides that these reports must include: (1) the number of inmates awarded good conduct credit for meritorious service; (2) the jurisdictions from which these inmates were committed and into which they were or will be released; (3) the average amount of good conduct credit for meritorious service awarded; (4) the holding offenses for good conduct credit for meritorious service awardees; and (5) the number of good conduct credit for meritorious service revocations. Provides that as to both reports, the Department of Corrections must publish the reports on its website within 48 hours of transmitting them to the respective parties. Effective immediately.

If passed, these four bills will add restrictions and make it more difficult to legally challenge what some regard as the state’s arbitrary decision to revoke MGT. Whenever MGT is reinstated, some individuals who are not eligible for it because of the new laws may want to challenge their individual deprivation of MGT upon the basis that they would have been eligible for it under the old laws.

More importantly though, IPT apparently believes that the return of MGT can be hurried along if we all just “give in”, by satisfying the appetites of lawmakers and help make it as tough as possible to qualify for MGT, so that Gov. Quinn gets to the point that he believes he can go ahead and reinstate MGT without everyone squawking.

We don’t think that this will happen because, again, we think that Quinn ain’t gonna move on MGT till he is satisfied that IDOC is completely in ready for MGT, and that has nothing to do with the law. State legislators can pass one bill or 30 bills this session which have to do with MGT and crime; it all does not matter to Quinn how many bills they pass and which bills are passed. Whatever happens, if someone is released, as long as IDOC follows the letter of whatever laws are passed; Quinn will not have to take the heat. Quinn will shrug off responsibility at the time and just say that the legislators had the chance this session to pass a law on it and that they did not do so and therefore, it is not his fault.

Quinn will be able to avoid responsibility for the failure of any law being passed. What he will not be able to shrug off responsibility for is the failure of IDOC to follow the law and if it releases someone early who it should not have released because they were either not eligible for MGT or IDOC overlooks information showing they are dangerous. So, if IDOC makes a mistake, Quinn will be on the hook again for it in time for the next election cycle, and this is what he wants to avoid. That is why we say that the return of MGT will have nothing to do with these four bills; it will only return when Quinn feels IDOC is ready to handle MGT.

We know that our advice is likely to be unpopular here, but again, we cannot advise readers to join the IPT effort on these four bills. We feel that IPT’s efforts are a mistake which will have negative effects  and can only make them and others less effective in the future when trying to work on behalf of prisoners. IPT previously advised that they heard information from reliable sources that MGT is due to return July 1, 2011, but now, IPT is apparently starting to backpedal from this prediction. We are all frustrated over the suspension of MGT and it’s effect on many families, but we must stop short of desperation…

______________________________________________________

Dear IPT Members,

As everyone is well aware, we are in the midst of trying to get the state legislature to pass 4 bills pertaining to the restoration of MGT.

These are SB 1338, 1341, 1560, and 1562. These are bills that were sponsored in the Illinois Senate by Senator Kirk Dillard, a west suburban Republican. These bills allow the Director to award MGT up to 180 days, to inmates that qualify under rules established by the Senate. This bill won unanimous approval in the Senate and was sent to the House.

Once in the Rules Committee, Rep. Will Burns signed on as sponsor, but later abandoned them. These bills are sitting in committee right now as we speak with no sponsor. If no sponsor is signed on to move these bills out of committee, they die and have to be done all over again when they come back in December. Speaker Madigan’s office has agreed to give us until the 29th to find a sponsor for these bills. It is going to be an uphill battle. They are dealing with budgets, redistricting, pension reform and all this has to be done by the 31st.

We are asking everyone to call their state reps, whether Republican or Democrat, and ask them to sign on as sponsors to this bill. Here is how we do this. Call your State Representative in their Springfield office as they are in session until May 31st.   All numbers for your Rep can be located at www.ilga.gov.   Click on House, then click Members….scroll down to your Rep and click on the name. Please make your call before 9 am, so that it is done before they get fully started on their day.

Give the person that answers the phone the SB numbers and tell them that this is important legislation that affects every taxpayer in the state, and that you are a registered voter in their district. Also tell them that these bills award MGT to NON VIOLENT OFFENDERS ONLY! Make sure they understand that as well as this will positively affect the state’s strained budget. Ask them to inform the Representative that these bills die on 05/29/2011 with out a sponsor.

The Representative may call you back and ask you for more info on it. Tell them you appreciate very much them taking time out of their schedule to call back. Explain to the Rep. the importance of this legislation. Tell them the hard work is already done and that all we need is a sponsor to move it out of committee and bring it to the floor.

The past year has been filled with frustration and lost patience. We now have an opportunity to make a difference in an issue we all feel passionately about. Please call your Representative, ASAP, early tomorrow morning and urge them to take up sponsorship of these bills.

Regards,

IPT Administrators and Staff
The Illinois Prison Talk Team.

http://www.illinoisprisontalk.com/index.php


May 31, 2012, State Legislature passes new law paving way for Early Release programs! Read latest at http://richardwanke.com

 

We are more than halfway through the 2011, Illinois legislative session, and literally, almost nothing has been accomplished in Springfield except posturing. The early session  momentum once present to make joint decisions on the IL budget crisis has been entirely dispelled. The Republicans, Democrats, Madigan, and Governor Quinn are all now in separate corners with no alliances between them. In other words, this is the same situation so far as in prior years. The parties, trying to resolve the budget crisis have been unable to agree on a solution. This has tied up or prevented progress or consideration of other issues, and in the end, once the wrangling has extended out past the end of the session to July or later, everyone just throws up their hands, votes for a sum and passes it all to Quinn to fund as he likes and somehow muddle through.

Madigan continues to claim that this year will be different and that the legislature will somehow come together to agree on a budget which will be significantly leaner than the one Quinn has proposed and that they will pass it shortly, perhaps this month. We are not holding our breath that this will happen. Quinn passed a tax increase, but he did not get a measure passed to somehow pay down the huge pile of State bills, and these bills are increasing. With the tax increase, there is the prospect of more money coming into the State, which so far, has only expanded the prospects of arguing about how to spend it. Budget spending caps were set, but at the rate the legislature is arguing, these may even be exceeded and cost the State the tax increase.

So, where does this leave the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC)? Well, IDOC is stuck firmly in the muddle. There has been NO, repeat NO, movement on the reinstatement of Meritorious Good Time (MGT). Right now, inmates can expect to serve their full sentence term, minus day-for-day, schooling and treatment credits. We were hoping to be able to report some potential action on MGT by now, but there is none. All the legislative attention is still on working out some sort of budget for year and resolving back bills. No one in the legislature is talking about any real IDOC issues which affect inmates. Inmates and their families continue to be hurt by the MGT suspension and hoping it will come back, but for now, we have to say that it looks now like there will be no action this Spring or this summer. Quinn cannot reinstate MGT without a legislative consensus. MGT will probably not even be discussed until IDOC’s computer conversion to Microsoft’s Offender 360 software is nearly complete. That upgrade will probably take the rest of this year.

That is not to say that there are not plenty of red herrings out there. Rumors are still rampant in IDOC and people are checking the legislative bills pending and trying to read all kinds of stuff into any IDOC related bill introduced into the legislature. Readers have to keep in mind that the push by certain conservative legislators during sessions for the past several years is to tighten the screws on legal penalties for “criminals” whenever possible. So this year, as in the past, these legislators have introduced a slew of “corrections” bills which are on paper, but which have to work themselves out of committee and be voted on by the legislative bodies as a whole before there is any possibility that they could become law. No one should be working themselves up over these bills as they stand right now. That is not to say that it is not a good idea to keep up on them; particularly if it is a bill which may affect you if ever approved. If that is the case, find out the legislator who originated the bill and co-signers and send them your thoughts on the bill. But, don’t get hyper just because the bill is there. Remember that many bills do not pass and that even when they do, they usually get reworked a lot before passing.

Other states are recognizing that the legislative push to criminalize everything is counter-productive to state budgets and that we taxpayers cannot afford this. The article below, from the Telegraph, illustrates how this understanding is spreading in this country:

State budget crises push sentencing reforms

So, there are some smart people out there who see that the US is maxed out on criminal penalties at a great social cost. And, there are also advocates for inmates and sentencing reform in Illinois who are organizing to make this clear to our own legislators:

Advocates Seek New Road For Criminal Justice Policy

This article from Progress Illinois shows that there are a number of Illinois organizations, individuals and advocacy groups who monitor corrections legislation and catch the drift of the consequences of lawmakers who run amok with “anti-crime” legislation. We suggest that readers support their efforts to publicize the negative impact of these bills by writing to legislators in opposition of them. We will run through the brunt of these bills in another post, but if you want to help, write your legislators, particularly the republicans.