* Mick Dumke at the Chicago Reader takes a look today at Illinois’ innumerable prison problems, including these…
(T)he state’s prison population has been inching upward for years. In fact, while diversion programs and drug law reforms have helped shrink the inmate totals in most large states, Illinois has been a national leader in prison population growth, including the biggest increase anywhere in 2010, according to a recent federal report.
Although corrections officials previously predicted a drop in the inmate population, it’s grown from 44,669 in 2005 to 47,504 in 2010 to 48,380 last week. That’s an increase of about 8 percent in seven years. Over the same period, the state corrections budget has grown about 20 percent, to $1.2 billion.
We’re not just talking about violent criminals, either. Since 2005, the portion of prisoners in for nonviolent offenses has remained constant—about 49 percent. That means more people have been incarcerated for offenses like DUIs, thefts, and residential burglaries.
On the upside, fewer prisoners are in on drug charges. On the downside, drug offenses still account for 20 percent of the inmates in Illinois prisons. Nearly 800 of these prisoners are there for marijuana-related offenses.
One reason the state saw the prison population skyrocket so much in 2010 was because of the badly botched early release “push” program that set free violent offenders. The “push” program was abolished, but so was the rest of the early release program and Corrections employees claimed during the year that parole officers were scrambling to put people back into prison so that the governor didn’t have a campaign problem if one of those guys killed somebody.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief of staff Jack Lavin claimed the other day that the prison census was declining. But he was using very short-term numbers to justify this claim. Overall, the population has obviously grown a lot. Maybe we should start talking about at least freeing those marijuana convicts.
* Progress Illinois takes a look at the governor’s proposal to close Tamms…
Edgar’s Task Force, for instance, made clear that prisoners were only supposed to be housed in Tamms temporarily: “The
The primary purpose mentioned above was to rehabilitate those causing trouble in other prisons. Thus, the Task Force’s report argued, prisoners must be allowed to earn their way out of Tamms based on good behavior: “Inmates would be required to earn their way to progressively less restrictive levels [of confinement], and eventually back into the general prison population… Reviews of inmate behavior would be made every 30 days.” […]
As advocacy group Tamms Year Ten has pointed out, these regulations were either never put in place or never followed. (The group’s flier on the subject, from which the above quotes were culled, is available here.)
Prisoners have been housed at the Tamms facility indefinitely — they have been moved “in” but not “out.” A third of the current inmates have been incarcerated at the supermax prison since 1998, according to Tamms Year Ten. Some of these prisoners have long since reached the highest good behavior “level” described by the Task Force; and yet they have not been returned to the general prison population. Instead, they remain imprisoned in exactly the sort of “long-term isolation” the Task Force warned against.
* Some see Pat Quinn’s budget as attack on downstate Illinois: Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft argued last week that the 14 proposed major facility closings are evenly divided by region, with seven in the upper half of the state, including places such as Rockford, Joliet and Aurora. However, Illinois is a state where “downstate” is commonly defined as anything outside Chicago — and just two of the 14 facilities are in the city. By that measure, some argue, Quinn’s proposed cuts show a clear geographic pattern. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he is Cook County-centered,” said Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, who is fighting the proposed closing of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and other facilities in his area. “(Cook County) is his power base, that’s where his voting base is, that’s where his loyalties are.”
* AFSCME launches “No Quinn Cuts” Campaign to protect public services and jobs
* Hundreds rally to stop closure of Dwight Correctional Center
* Dwight rallies ’round DCC