* Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Kirk Dillard wants a legislative probe, with full subpoena powers, into the botched early prisoner release plan. From a press release…
State Senator Kirk Dillard today issued a letter to Senate and House Leaders urging for immediate action against Governor Quinn surrounding the second early release program and calling for a special session of the Committee of the Whole with full subpoena authority to gather the facts and repercussions.
“Quinn’s program raises additional troubling questions about how the administration is managing our state prisons and working in concert with prosecutors and victims,” Dillard begins in his letter to General Assembly leaders. “Governor Quinn and his administration continue to provide vastly different stories about these programs including who made the decision to authorize the early release, why violent criminals were included in the program, and why the MGT program was secretive. Far too many questions remain unanswered about these discretionary early release programs which could continue to have dramatic repercussions on our criminal justice system,” the letter states.
“Quinn is the only one accountable for this consequential error in judgment,” Dillard added. “His ‘word’ that he was left in the dark regarding a highly sensitive issue like early release is nothing short of deceit. Trying to place blame on Director of Prisons, Michael Randle is unacceptable and unprofessional,” Dillard said. “On issues such as public safety or homeland security the buck stops with the Governor. With all the people of Illinois have faced from the Blagojevich/Quinn Administrations, they not only deserve answers but also peace of mind,” said Dillard.
“I know that Illinois Legislators share the common goal of safety for each and every citizen of Illinois. We must work together to increase transparency, fully evaluate the programs, and explore all possible remediation measures,” Dillard wrote.
Dillard is a member of the Senate Criminal Law Judiciary committee, which oversees the Corrections Department, and a former co-chair of the panel.
There are some Democrats pushing quietly behind the scenes for a legislative probe, but Speaker Madigan just got back from vacation today, so nothing’s been decided - or even really discussed at the highest levels. But don’t hold your breath.
*** UPDATE *** From AFSCME…
In a letter sent today to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 called for the immediate creation of “a special joint task force, including legislators from both parties and both chambers, to answer urgent questions about the administration of the corrections department.”
AFSCME is the state’s largest union of public-service workers. Its members include some 11,000 frontline employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“Recent events and news reports reveal a system spiraling out of control. Yet Governor Pat Quinn’s most substantive action has been to create new appointees answerable solely to him,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer wrote. “This response is wholly inadequate on its face.”
Bayer added: “[W]e are alarmed by the premature release of nearly 2,000 inmates through two IDOC initiatives—one conducted in secret—that have put violent and repeat offenders back in Illinois communities, despite pledges to the contrary. News reports indicate that many of these individuals have already committed new crimes. … Now, more than two weeks after the secret program was revealed, we still know almost nothing about how it was conceived, designed, approved or implemented. The public deserves a full accounting of who in IDOC management or the governor’s office authorized or was aware of the MGT Push program.”
Further, Bayer pointed out, “for years AFSCME has raised concerns about reckless budget cuts, mismanagement and neglect that have left state prisons severely short of staff”. Yet it appears that the premature-release programs were intended to “justify the governor’s threatened layoff of more than 1,000 prison employees.”
Bayer emphasized that “state prisons are increasingly dangerous” due to lack of staff, noting recent “disturbing outbreaks of violence” by prison inmates against employees at the Pinckneyville, Hill, Dixon, Pontiac, Illinois River, Logan and other facilities.
“These crises cannot be allowed to fester. Past patterns of cuts, mismanagement and neglect must not be repeated,” Bayer concluded. “The legislature has both the power to oversee the operation of state prisons, and the responsibility to serve as a co-equal check on the executive branch. In that capacity, I urge you to appoint a special joint task force to seek answers to these mushrooming scandals for the benefit of the people of Illinois.”