* Yesterday, Gov. Quinn reversed himself and said he knew that the Dept. of Corrections was releasing some prisoners after just a few days in custody. Quinn wouldn’t say, however, why he halted the release program after the AP asked about it. But the governor also claimed that Corrections Director Michael Randle had briefed editorial boards about the program, so it wasn’t a “secret,” as the AP had reported.
Wrong on almost all counts.
The State Journal-Register was one of those editorial boards supposedly “briefed” by Randle, and it claimed today that Director Randle actually talked to the board about a different program.
According to the SJ-R, Randle did not brief the paper on the program recently detailed by the Associated Press, which is called “Meritorious Good Time Push,” or “MGT Push” for short. MGT Push allegedly abandoned Corrections’ unwritten rule that prisoners serve at least 61 days of their sentence. Under MGT Push, some inmates are allowed out of prison “almost immediately.”
From today’s editorial…
Under MGT Push, inmates released after serving less than three weeks included those accused of weapons charges, battery and repeat drunken drivers. One DUI offender served 18 days in jail after he hit two cars, hospitalizing one driver for weeks. These don’t sound like nonviolent offenders. In total, more than 850 inmates left prison earlier than they otherwise would have.
This almost amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card. Illinois can implement a cost-effective and safe method for releasing nonviolent prisoners early, but MGT Push reduces the deterrence that going to prison provides against committing crime. It is not a framework the state should be using.
Expect the phrase “get-out-of-jail-free card” to eventually show up in a TV ad.
Quinn said Wednesday that he signed off on the program. Why? And did he know some inmates convicted of violent offenses would be released?
There needs to be a clear accounting of why this policy was adopted, who signed off on it and how the state will ensure that something similar doesn’t happen in the future.
We don’t have a problem with releasing truly nonviolent inmates in order to help stabilize the state budget. But any inmate release program should closely follow the guidelines Randle talked about in October and ensure the public’s safety isn’t endangered.
The governor needs to tell us the truth about what is going on in his own administration. This is unacceptable.
*** UPDATE *** From the Dan Hynes campaign…
“Pat Quinn has been all over the place since this secret early prisoner release story broke over the weekend, first denying knowledge before saying he did in fact know about the program. The only consistency has been his inconsistency, and today’s State Journal-Register editorial flatly contradicts his shifting story.
“Meanwhile, five days later, the people of Illinois are trying to sift through the confusion and misinformation that the Quinn administration seems to be deliberately sewing. What is clear is that when confronted with a report that the state of Illinois has been secretly releasing hundreds of prisoners — some violent offenders — after virtually no time served, Pat Quinn’s response has been to go into full damage control mode.
“Unfortunately, the damage the Governor seems most concerned with is that to his own political fortunes rather than to public safety, and that is unacceptable. Governor Quinn needs to come clean immediately on this program. We renew our call for the Governor to release a list of everyone released early from prison through this secret program, the crimes for which they were serving time, any previous criminal records, the rationale behind their release, and where these individuals are presently residing.”