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Illinois Gov. Puts Prison Early Release Program On Hold

Illinois Gov. Puts Prison Early Release Program On Hold

Chicago Tribune via YellowBrix

December 14, 2009

Gov. Pat Quinn has suspended a program that allowed hundreds of inmates to be released early by earning credit for good behavior.

Quinn said Sunday that his office will review the Illinois Department of Corrections’ “meritorious good time” release program, which came under fire after an analysis showed some inmates with past convictions for drunken driving, battery and weapons violations spent mere weeks behind bars before release.

Under the program, corrections chief Michael P. Randle may grant any inmate 90 days’ worth of credit based on their behavior while behind bars.

The report by the Associated Press found hundreds of inmates were given the good-conduct credit immediately on entering prison, and more than 850 inmates have been released under the program since September.

The good-credit program is separate from a policy previously announced by Quinn to release 1,000 nonviolent offenders early if they are within the last year of their sentence.

That move was aimed at saving hundreds of millions of dollars as the state faces a massive budget deficit. With a prison population of about 45,545, Illinois taxpayers spend more than $1 billion a year on corrections.

Inmates convicted of murder, sex crimes or domestic violence, or who have active orders of protection against them do not qualify for release under Quinn’s plan.

Reed wouldn’t say if Quinn felt Randle was being too lenient in issuing the good conduct credit, adding “the governor has great respect and regard for Director Randle and his judgment.”

A spokeswoman for Randle didn’t return calls or e-mails.

The biggest critics of the release program were state prosecutors, who worried that it threatened public safety and put residents at risk.

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