« Student note about retroactive application of 2007 guideline crack amendments | Main | Thankful that media is finally giving President Obama some pardon grief »

November 24, 2010

Illinois prisons bursting following end of early release program

Ill prisons

I just came across this notable recent piece from the Chicago Tribune, which is headlined "Illinois prison population surges to record high: Backlash over Quinn's early-release program plays role." Here is how it begins:

Hard time has gotten even harder in Illinois prisons.  The state's prison system is bursting at the seams with a record high of nearly 49,000 inmates, some 3,000 more than just a year ago.  The surge, combined with the state's multibillion-dollar budget crisis, has led to conditions that watchdog groups and veteran correctional officers say they haven't seen since a population crisis in the 1980s prompted the state to build three new prisons.

Confronted with putting more offenders in the same amount of space, administrators are doubling up every available cell.  As many as four inmates are bunked in slightly larger cells intended for two handicapped prisoners.  At the intake facility at Stateville near Joliet, incoming inmates regularly sleep on cots in a gymnasium or prison hospital.

Guards say overcrowding provides fewer disciplinary options — some prisons have been pressed into holding problem inmates in "segregation" in the same areas as regular inmates.  Overcrowding also leads to more inmate assaults on staff, guards say.

With the Illinois Department of Corrections about $95 million behind on its bills, many prison vendors haven't been paid for months.  In some cases, fed-up contractors have stopped extending credit to prisons, causing shortages that have led wardens to barter among themselves to stay stocked with essential items like paper goods and soap.

It's a marked change for Illinois, which a year ago saw its prison population drop, a trend seen in about half of the country as cash-strapped states looked to alternatives to incarceration to reduce spending, according to a Pew Center report.

Three years ago, thinking that the number of inmates statewide would stabilize or even fall, prison officials in Illinois considered closing Vandalia Correctional Center to cut costs. But in just the last year, the population at the downstate minimum-security prison nearly doubled, rising to 1,700 this fall from 950 last November.  Now, nearly 100 inmates sleep dormitory-style in a basement area previously closed off by prison officials, said Russ Stunkel, president of the union representing staff at Vandalia.  The bunks are only about 2 feet apart — rear end to elbow, as he put it.  "We're beyond our capacity, and I don't think we can handle any more," Stunkel said.

The reason for the rising numbers of inmates over the last year has nothing to do with more offenders entering the system — it has to do with fewer getting out as the result of a backlash against a policy change by Gov. Pat Quinn that allowed the early release of about 1,700 inmates over four months.

Under fire by an opponent in a heated primary fight, Quinn in January suspended the controversial program, called Meritorious Good Time Push, after news media reports that some prisoners sentenced to short terms of incarceration were freed after as little as a few days in state prison under the program.  At the same time, Quinn also suspended the state's regular Meritorious Good Time program, which had been in place for three decades and reduced the prison time of nearly two-thirds of the state's inmates by an average of a few months.

As a result, the prison population began rising immediately and has gone up every month since, reaching a peak of 48,731 last week.

November 24, 2010 at 10:28 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20147e022fc54970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Illinois prisons bursting following end of early release program:

Comments

123D. Each prisoner could have a beautiful spacious suite, with concierge service.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 25, 2010 3:52:23 AM

We need about a million executions to clear the current supply of violent criminals, then 10,000 a year for the foreseeable future, until the brain defects can be repaired at the genetic molecular level. Those less impaired would be deterred by the certainty and swiftness of death. This program should begin with the hierarchy of history's biggest, most powerful criminal syndicate, the hierarchy of the lawyer profession. There would be no lawyer gotcha on any collateral corruption. The evidence of their insurrection against the constitution is brazenly, openly, and notoriously placed in their publications.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 25, 2010 3:57:05 AM

Illinois can not even pay for the prisons it now has. They are not paying their contractors--they owe the medical provider millions; they owe every city where they havea prison water and sewer bills. Why anyone thinks we can build our way out of this mess is a mystery. Illinois only has two choices: raise taxes to pay the bills, or stop handing down such lengthy sentences.

Posted by: Alan Mills | Nov 27, 2010 12:29:02 PM

They need to have the good time come back, inmates in Vandalia are in a basement and get treated for SPIDER BITES! And there are spider webs all over the place. I know because I speak with someone in there EVERYDAY and they tell me how its dark, like a dungeon and compared to the other parts of the prison its hell. Now I know it’s a prison and it shouldn’t be a nice place, but they have inmates in a dark spider infested basement, can that really be legal?...Officals from spring field are there all we this week (11/29-12/3) and all of a sudden they started feeding the inmates decent food and giving them fruit and gave the cooks brand new clothes. But when they arent there they eat garbage. My boyfriend has lost 20 lbs! They need to reenstate the good time so they can get nonviolent inmates out..whatever happened to house arrest? Do they even do that any more?...QUINN PLEASE BE SMART GIVE THEM THEIR GOOD TIME BACK!

Posted by: Lizabeth Spencer | Dec 1, 2010 3:12:26 PM

Hello Let me know if i'm wrong but wasn't it some restiution plan that obama came up with that gives prisoners a chance to pay off the fines and restiution that is owed to the state or victim and then they can be released on parole or probation..if this is in affect maybe the prison wouldn't bge over crowed and the state wouldn't owe as much money for housing,feeding,and clothing these inmates.Please post a comment and let me know.

Posted by: Alicia Fields | Dec 2, 2010 1:17:47 PM

My brother is now sitting in Stateville for riding a motorized bicycle while license revoked. Eight month sentence in the Department of Corrections for the motor being less than one horse power over the limitations of "low speed bike motor in the state of IL. I hope he lives to make it out of this mess. Justice has been served??

Posted by: Lea Brushaber | Dec 8, 2010 10:39:15 PM

I have a son in prison for drugs he got the max. I have a real problem with this when I see others with worse or the same getting way less then him he made a mistake and is paying for it. we live in Tazewell county and just today a woman is being released from prison she killed her husband and wow done 4 years and 1 week but here if you get any charges of drugs or a dui they want you lock away but for our sex offenders and murders get less time we have a real problem here I just have a hard time understanding all this I'm a mother

Posted by: Elaine Richey | Jan 13, 2011 2:06:11 PM

My 60-year old friend, homeless at the time, was arrested for shoplifting and sentenced to 2 1/2 years. He has spent nearly 90 days so far in receiving, 23-hour-a-day lockdown, while waiting for a space at a facility. No hot food, commissary once a month, and social isolation. It seems pretty harsh treatment for shoplifting. These are still people, not animals. The punishment should fit the crime. Early release programs can place these people back into society while they still have a sense of belonging.

Posted by: Kathleen | Feb 8, 2011 7:49:21 PM

I am OUTRAGED at the Illinois State Prison Systems. I am an advocate for early release and good time served awards. We, as a society, need to understand that bad things can happen to all people. Many inmates are incarcerated for acts committed while physically, mentally and emotionally addicted to highly addictive drugs (Heroin, Crack Cocaine). Once they are forcibly clean and sober they themselves are in awe of the crime they committed. Where is the justice for the people that became victimized by the drugs in this country? These people are human beings and they are someones child, friend, brother ect. Once they are issued their sentence and prove to be the people that belong in society without the addiction/influence of drugs than they should be afforded that right to have a second chance. But instead, the state of Illinois (PAT QUINN) wants to look at all inmates as the cliche criminals/animals ect and not provide room for change. In the mean time, these facilities are overcrowded and full of remorseful people that can be contributing members of society. Human is the word here, Mr. Quin. The life changing effects of a true drug addiction could happen to ANYONE! Give them a chance to prove the people they really are and let them have a chance for life!! Have someone on the outside vouch for their freedom. Someone responsible for their success in society besides state appointed officials. Time to reinstate early release!!!!

Posted by: Leighann Brock | Mar 8, 2011 2:20:04 PM

I HAVE READ AND READ ABOUT HOW EVERYONE WANTS TO HAVE THE EARLY RELEASE PROGRAM BROUGHT BACK....SO WHY IS THIS NOT BEING DONE. I TOO HAVE SEEN WITH MY OWN EYES WHAT SORT OF GOES ON. I KNOW THE VISITING ROOM THAT I HAVE TO SIT IN AND SEE MY LOVED ONE IS ABSOLUTELY GROSS. ITS SO SAD. CHILDREN RUNNING AROUND, COUGHING,SNEEZING!! THEY DO NOT CLEAN OR EVEN WIPE DOWN THE TABLES THAT THE FAMILIES ARE SUPPOSED TO SIT AND EVEN EAT AT. ITS SOOO BAD. YOU CAN HARDLY BREATHE IN THE ROOM. ITS SOOO HOT. NO VENTILATION WHAT SO EVER. ITS CRAZY. I AM TELLING YOU WE TAKE BETTER CARE OF ANIMAL SHELTERS THAN WE DO HUMAN BEINGS. PAY FOR WHAT YOU DID WRONG! I UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT LOW LEVEL, NON VIOLENT CRIMES NEED SOMETHING DIFFERENT. THEY KEEP BRINGING IT UP BUT NOTHING IS BEING DONE. WHY???????? THAT IS THE QUESTION I WANT ANSWERED. PLEASE PEOPLE SPEAK UP AND RELEASE THESE PEOPLE WHO DO NOT BELONG IN THERE!!! THIS SHOULD NOT WAIT. TIME TO TAKE ACTION PEOPLE.

Posted by: Marnie Davis | Jan 31, 2012 11:14:29 AM

amem!!! let's start this early release!!!!

Posted by: mrslindsey | Mar 3, 2012 9:40:52 PM

I AGREE THEY SHOULD BRING IN GOOD TIME AND THE EARLY RELEASE MY FIANCE GOT 10 YRS FOR SMALL POSSESION OF DRUGS FIRST OFFENSE HE SAYS THE PRISON SYSTEM IS A JOKE AND LIVING IN BAD CONDITIONS I BET IF THE GOVERMENT HAD THEIR ONLY FAMILY WAS IN THEY WOULD LET THEM OUT ON GOOD BEHAVIOR. PLZ THE ONES THAT DO NOT DESERVE TO BE IN THERE SHOULD BE RELEASED KEEP THE MURDERS AND SEX OFFENDERS ALSO MELSTERS INSIDE THIS IS MY OPION

Posted by: LISA WHATLEY | Dec 17, 2013 1:12:37 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB