Posts Tagged ‘Quinn’


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


Nobody is taking Governor Pat Quinn’s threats to lay-off state employees en masse and close down seven state facilities because of a budget crunch seriously so far. As we said, it is doubtful that Quinn is going to be successful in carrying out lay-offs and closures, because he has too many hurtles to cross. What Quinn’s tactic is managing to do is generate a lot of negative publicity for Quinn’s overall competence. Kurt Erickson’s article below summarizes why everyone is dissing Quinn for threatening large-scale lay-offs and facility closures when Quinn chooses to ignore other possible alternative revenue sources available to the state to raise the equivalent, if not more, money:   (Click on article titles)

Erickson: Quinn’s announcement viewed as bluff

Illinois takes in more cash from taxpayers, less from feds

Below is AFSCME’s factsheet on the proposed Quinn lay-offs and facility closures. Aside from the drastic effects on social service agencies for the disabled, AFSCME points out that Quinn is proposing to close Chester, the only mental health facility serving the mentally ill inmates of the state prison population and the IL Youth Center, the state’s only juvenile boot camp. This only goes to show readers how unrealistic the proposed closures are and to indicate the degree of opposition Quinn would face if he actually pushes to make these closures.

What this directly shows that this is all a political ploy by the Governor to pressure the state legislature into approving a supplemental budget appropriation for the year, is that fact that the proposed actions are designed to inflict maximum pain at the cost of relatively minimum gain: since the state would only save less than $55 million this fiscal year, or a staggering 0.2 percent of the entire state budget. Since Quinn’s budget showfall is a $2.2 billion dollar gap, $55 million will hardly cover it. Quinn would still have to depend on state legislators or other means to cover the rest, and antagonizing them now is a poor strategy.  As some are pointing out, it will take money to save money:  (Click on article title)

Closing mental facilities to cost millions

As to the number of state employees, remember that IL ranks just about last (if not last) in the country as to the ratio of approx 97 state employees to every 10,000 inhabitants. US states average 143 workers per 10,000 residents. IL has been number 49 on the list for several years since cutting state employees became the priority under Blagovich.


First of all, readers are advised not to panic!

Websites are awash with concerned readers. There is some heavy politiking going on at the state level in Springfield right now with the Governor making threats and noises about cutting state employees and facilities. It is just NOISE and Pat Quinn positioning himself. What will come out of all this postering is nothing in the short-term and October, and possibly little that is productive in the long-run.

BUT THIS DOES PRESENT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE INTERESTED TO HOLD GOVERNOR PAT QUINN TO ACCOUNTABILITY!

Below are some of the scary articles coming out since Governor Pat Quinn started claiming that he is poised on the brink of announcing layoffs across several agencies and closing down several facilities in order to meet the budget:

Quinn plans layoffs, facility closings

Gov. Quinn says job ‘reductions’ needed

One fewer prison, more inmate crowding possible for Illinois

Pontiac and Vandalia prisons are both being tossed around as the correctional facilities most likely to be targeted for closure by Pat Quinn. Quinn may carry through on his threats by announcing layoffs and closure in the coming weeks, but as the above articles indicate and the below articles spell out; Quinn’s ability to carry out his threats is largely hollow because of the significant obstacles he would have to overcome, including a couple of them he created himself.

First of all, Quinn so far, has not gotten his way. The state legislature sent him a budget $2.2 billion short of what he wanted. Quinn was unable to sweet-talk the legislature into borrowing money to cover that short-fall during the last legislative session, and since May, Quinn has not found enough cuts to make in the budget they sent him to cover it. So, Quinn wants to force the legislature into approving a supplemental appropriation for the year during the fall veto session which begins October 25, 2011.

Quinn has the state already being challenged in court for renegment on an agreement he made with the public employees union, AFSCME, by not allowing pay raises as scheduled to state employees. Now, he will supposedly claim that the union has not kept the terms of another agreement with them not to layoff staff and close facilities as an basis to claim that he can can do so. He will be quickly challenged in court on the layoffs and proposed closures, and it is very unlikely that any court will rule in his favor. The legal process to implement any of these will be lengthy and is also complicated by the fact as discussed below, the legislature has made it more difficult now for IL governors to simply close any facility:

Quinn can’t just talk about closings

Quinn must justify facility closings under state law

Whether Quinn will succeed in getting more money from this legislature this fall is an open question. He is unlikely to succeed in closing anything and cutting staff. AFSCME is taking a common-sense, lets all cut through the BS posturing in it’s budget perspective:

…“Our state urgently needs leadership. Rather than disrupt vital services and add to Illinois’ already alarmingly high unemployment rate, the governor should work with the General Assembly to forestall service cuts and layoffs. The necessary funding is available if the legislature takes action when it returns for the veto session. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reports that revenue is coming in this year at higher than projected levels.

“We call on the governor and the legislative leaders to work together for the good of our state. This is not a time for partisanship or finger-pointing. It’s a time to work together to ensure that essential services to maintain public safety and meet human needs can continue to be provided. AFSCME stands ready to be part of that effort.”…

By using such an aggressive and antagonistic approach now to resolve the budget dilemna he has been grappling with all year, Pat Quinn, may be biting himself and fellow democrats in the rear-end. Pat Quinn appears to feel that the decisions he is making and carrying out are “morally” the “right thing to do”, but he is far from invulnerable in his position of moral superiority. Enough time has passed from his election win to reveal that Quinn lacks decisive leadership. Indeed, his procrastination on major issues and actions since then has squandered any voter momentum from the last election and leaves even republicans looking good.

Quinn’s actions make him a target for Republicans and AFSCME and other unions who should now realize that any agreements he makes with them are only politically expedient and will be broken by him when required. Voters, politicians, and interested parties should now be focusing their scutiny on Quinn for unnecessarily creating social and economic havoc on a grand scale. Quinn is poised to try to make public employees and social service agencies pawns to his political agenda as he has done for the past year and a half to prison inmates and their families.

As Quinn’s campaign unrolls, this is an opportunity for those concerned (and we urge our readers to do so) to contact the media, AFSCME, and Quinn’s Republican critics to calmly point out to them that Quinn is calling on others to make huge sacrifices in terms of jobs, funding, and closures, at a time when he is costing the state to incur millions of dollars in additional costs and prison over-crowding simply because he has failed to reinstate the awarding of Meritorious Good Time (MGT) credits for state inmates or otherwise resolve the problem and escalated costs of state prison over-crowding. The state of IL Department of Corrections has been patiently stacking, racking, and packing in mostly low-level offenders without respite since December 2009, when Quinn suspended further awarding of MGT. It needs to be pointed out to them that not only has Quinn procrastinated over this time, but that he has been allowed to be silent and not provide any public explanation as to how much longer these additional costs to taxpayers of at least $17,000 per year per inmate will continue before he acts and to explain what his solution will be.

Real pain and suffering are being endured currently by those within the corrections system. The state prison over-crowding issue has become so bad that even some Republicans are beginning to sound the alarm, as in the article below. Even they are advocating that the state urgently needs to see some form of inmate “early release”program happen as soon as possible:

Lawmakers see ‘train wreck’ with prison overcrowding, understaffing

IL inmates have gone through a summer of humanly intolerable temperatures outside and within prison facilities which are out-dated and which not only lack air-conditioning, but which are built to aggravate temperatures within facilities. Inmates have been housed in gyms and in basements, corridors, and any place a cot can be put. The conditions reported below are not new. Vandalia prison had the same conditions reported last summer with water in basements and mold. It has just taken the John Howard Association a year to get there to tour the facility and to issue this report. Vandalia is not alone with these problems and so far IDOC is just trying to keep the lid on an explosive situation.

Group outlines harsh conditions at Ill. prison


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUINN NOW NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!

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

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

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

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