Success in the Media

The Illinois Prison System: Dividing the Loaves and Fishes

Crime in America.Net

The Chicago Tribune ran an article on the resignation of the director of the Illinois correctional system who instituted a series of good conduct credits to speed the release of prison inmates by 36 days.

Some of the released inmates went on to commit additional crimes.

Excerpts from the article:

The state prisons chief who took the blame for a botched prisoner early release program under Gov. Pat Quinn is resigning as the Democratic governor seeks to stem the political damage from an election-year controversy.

Michael Randle is leaving to “pursue a new opportunity,” Quinn spokeswoman Ashley Cross confirmed late Wednesday. He will remain on the job until Sept. 17 to help with the transition for his replacement, who will be named “shortly,” said Cross.

Acting on Quinn’s general instructions to cut costs, Randle started a program last September that sped up the rate prisoners could earn good time credit. That lead to 1,745 inmates being let out an average of 36 days before the end of their sentence. Some convicts were released almost immediately, before corrections officials could assess their rehabilitation needs. And some of those released early went on to commit additional crimes.

A Quinn-appointed panel criticized the program as “ill-conceived” last month, finding that it traded protecting the public safety for $3.4 million in savings.

See: http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/clout_st/2010/09/quinns-embattled-prisons-chief-to-leave-for-new-job.html

Background:

There have been hundreds of articles throughout the country on states releasing offenders early due to budget cuts and in some cases, the closing of prisons. Most (virtually all) carry a negative tone.

We suspect that part of the negative coverage is the skepticism by the media as to the veracity of statements from prison officials as to the “dangerousness” of those being released. Officials in some states were calling people with a history of violence non-violent offenders because their current charge was a non-violent crime.

The second issue covered by the media was recording the crimes committed by those released.

Our thoughts:

The budget cuts facing state criminal justice systems have been going on for over a decade. There is not a prison system in the country that has not employed the same/similar methods. Systems may call early releases something else, but all have to manage their prison population within the confines of their budgets. If you cut the budget, you have to cut the number of inmates.

What happened in Illinois could happen to virtually every correctional administrator in the country.

As to the crimes committed, the best research from the US Department of Justice tells us that two-thirds of prison releases will be rearrested within three years and the greatest percentage of those arrests will occur during the first year.

Granted, if we suffered the victimization from someone released early we would be mad as heck, but as to the numbers and total effect on public safety, the impact would probably be the same with or without early releases.

If we don’t want early prison releases or police officers laid off or a reduction in police services, then we have to agree to adequately fund the criminal justice system.

While it’s inevitable that someone will lose their job over the impact of budget cuts, it’s still a reason why the best and brightest do not want to be in charge of justice-related operations during an era of budget cuts unless they know how to divide the loaves an fishes and keep everyone happy at the same time.

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  1. Thanks for this post it was really useful

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