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Good government is good (partisan) politics

Thursday, Mar 27, 2014

* This sounds like a pretty interesting idea

The state’s shuttered juvenile prison in Murphysboro could be reopened as a special adult prison for drunk driving offenders under Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal.

The plan, which relies on the General Assembly making the 67 percent income tax increase permanent, could bring jobs to a Southern Illinois facility that Quinn closed less than two years ago.

According to the governor’s budget office, an estimated 2,500 inmates housed throughout the state’s sprawling prison system are serving time for multiple drunk driving offenses.

Moving some of them to the former minimum-security institution for juveniles could ease overcrowding in other facilities and provide them with specialized services designed to help them after release.

“Murphysboro could be re-purposed fairly easily,” said Abdon Pallasch, assistant director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. “This center will help us reduce recidivism and save taxpayer money over time.”

Looks like decent policy to me.

Re-opening the facility also has a political benefit, however. State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) is running for Congress. The House Democrats pushed Bill Kilquist through the Democratic primary and have high hopes for his November chances. Creating a few jobs in an area that is so heavily dependent upon state employment probably won’t hurt at all.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    The Quinncome Tax has been in effect long enough for Pat to make this happen now - that is - if the reason he is giving us to prevent it, is true.

    You know, that Tax he said he’s never raise as a candidate, to the level he said would be temporary, but is now asking for it to be permanent.

    Or that he is being honest at all.

  2. - Midstate Indy - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    Even without the details, the policy side doesn’t sound like a bad concept. The political side definitely helps to shore up local party support.

  3. - A guy... - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    Not at all in favor of the tax increase, but the policy may be sound either way. Realizing that many of these DUI offenses come with significant fines, it would seem natural to use them to pay for the incarceration period.

  4. - MrJM - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    “Ease overcrowding in other facilities and provide them with specialized services designed to help them after release.”

    Seems like a win-win.

    – MrJM

  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    Makes sense to me.

  6. - West Sider - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    Every campaign needs early wins, to gain momentum, and as you say Rich, Good government is good politics.
    Hazelton with bars sounds like a winner.

  7. - Jimbo - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    Yeah, normal prison time isn’t going to help some folks. When they get out, they still have a drinking problem, few job prospects, and a wealth of criminal knowledge learned in prison. Probably best to focus on treatment and keep the average boozehound away from other criminals while they serve their time.

  8. - Bunkus - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    The Joliet radio station this morning reported that the shuttered Illinois Youth Prison in Joliet was going to receive a $1.5 million “repurposing” project fund. No word yet on what it will be used for.

  9. - Lunchbox - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    Sounds like a decent policy move.

  10. - Black Ivy - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:35 am:

    Creating a few prison-related jobs in southern Illinois does not justify making the 67% tax hike permanent, particularly if it benefits Illinois Democrats. The juvenile justice community applauded the closing of the Murphysboro prison. Re-purposing the facility to serve repeated drunk-driving offenders seems a rather costly endeavor for 430 folks. Not a prudent investment in my mind…

  11. - walk in my shoes - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:35 am:

    Hopefully IDOC will remain committed to the purpose of this being used to house DUI offenders. IDOC started a fantastic substance abuse program at Sheridan Correctional Center. A true model and now due to overcrowding in the system Sheridan has received general population inmates that do not require or receive any special treatment programs. If IDOC is going to commit to a program type facility for DUI offenders and/or substance abusers it requires the commitment to only house those offenders and not use extra bed space for offenders who do not need those services. Kudos to IDOC if they can stay committed.

  12. - A modest proposal - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    If I were Rauner my response would be - Pat Quinn has turned his back on Southern Illinois. He is promising that he will institute this new program, but will have less money to do it. It will never come to fruition, it is just another lie by Pat Quinn.

  13. - Cassandra - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    Well, at least they aren’t reopening it to lock up more juveniles.

    But, a special prison for drunk drivers. I don’t know. I’d like to hear from some national correctional policy experts on that one. Why can’t they be on home release? Is this being done anywhere else in the country, and with what results. And how will this reduce the corrections budget–seems like opening another facility would increase Illinois’ correctional expenses.

    As to Murphysboro’s need for jobs–again, government is not supposed to be a jobs program.
    It’s private sector jobs we are supposed to be

  14. - John Howard Association - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    I’ll stay out of the politics, but I think this is excellent policy. One of the problems with prisons–particularly when they are as crowded and under-resourced as Illinois’ prisons are–is that they end up treating all prisoners the same, regardless of their specific needs or issues. Among other things, this practice can’t do much to help address the specific causes that lead people to re-offend. By focusing the state’s limited resources on the specific needs of a specific group of its population, I’m hopeful that IDOC can develop the capacity to reduce the likelihood that they’ll return to prison. I just hope we can find a way to fund it–and I hope we can find ways to do more things like it in the future.

  15. - SO IL M - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    It is actually a good policy. Nice to see one come from this administration for a change. And as others have said, its good policy no matter if the tax rate stays or not.

  16. - Living in Machiaville - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    Should include pot offenders if they don’t fix the criminaliztion of its use.

  17. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    == could ease overcrowding in other facilities and provide them with specialized services ===

    It is good to see these problems finally being formally acknowledged. The normal line is usually more like this:

    Our prisons are clearly overcrowded despite spending roughly 98% of our budget on the housing of inmates. The overcrowding problem did not develop over night, nor does it leave much money for additional programs.

    It would be interesting to hear more regarding the rationale behind selecting drunk driving offenders for extra attention and services rather than juvenile drug offenders or others. While this is a good first step, I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better first step for our prison system.

  18. - Demoralized - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:22 pm:


    I thought there were other specialized programs in the system. Didn’t they do a drug treatment facility at one of the prisons a few years ago?

  19. - Barney Fife - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Smoking mirrors & election year rhetoric. Three inmate murders at Menard didn’t appear to justify needing to resolve the overcrowding issues but votes take a priority? Save money from closures or open facilities to help with overcrowding, which is it? Doubtful this sways the downstate sentiment PQ!

  20. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    @Demoralized - thanks for mentioning that. Truthfully, I am not sure, but now I am curious and will find out.

    It would be great to discover they tried something like that a few years ago, got positive results, and now have a working template to build off of. That applies whether it means helping drunk drivers, drug addicts or just about anyone else in our system who needs help.

  21. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    Sounds okay to me-don’t know about how much room is available, but non-violent first-offender drug convicts might be a good addition- it is all substance abuse….

  22. - Demoralized - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:55 pm:


    Sheridan rings a bell for some reason.

  23. - John Howard Association - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    IDOC has two drug-treatment prisons: Sheridan and Southwestern. Both are very effective.

  24. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 2:26 pm:

    Bunkus, it will be used for inmates requiring mental health treatment. There was a federal lawsuit.

  25. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 3:53 pm:

    Well, @downstate commissioner, you, me and @Demoralized will just have to sit down and figure this whole mess out.

    We can probably finish overhauling the prison system over coffee, handle the budget deficit over lunch, and then revisit pensions during dessert.

    Oscar can give the final drafts a once-over and then we’ll all call it a day.

    You’re welcome, Illinois. Please @PatQuinn to schedule our parade.

  26. - Cassandra - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 4:08 pm:

    Our prisons are overcrowded because we put way too many people in jail, especially young, poor minority men. And because way too many communities depend on these large, dysfunctional institutions for their economic livelihood, making it politically difficult to close them. And because the poor lack access to competent legal services.

    We don’t have to keep people in jail any more because it’s the only place they can get treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse, and psychiatric conditions. The ACA has given all inmates access to Medicaid or subsidized private insurance when they get out. So they should be able to get treated in the community. This is one of the many ways the ACA will profoundly affect medical care in this country, and our state policy makers should be taking advantage of it.
    Not thinking up more ways to institutionalize people because it makes for good political slogans.

  27. - Weighing In - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 4:42 pm:

    In addition to the two designated programs (Sheridan and Southwestern) several other facilities offer drug treatment. The recidivism rate for those who complete treatment is less than half of the general population. Very cost effective. This would be for multiple dui offenders who often times are much different than other drug users. Good idea.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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