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The issue that won’t ever go away

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010

* A group of Republican legislators held an informal hearing yesterday in Peoria to take testimony about the Quinn administration’s botched early release program. The reason they say they had to hold the hearing was that the administration wasn’t providing information and they were being blocked from pressing the matter further in Springfield

“We introduced bills to have a bipartisan commission to review this type of issue, but we couldn’t even get the bill called for a hearing,” [said Rep. Jim Durkin of Countryside]

Quinn asked retired judge David Erickson back in December to do a thorough review of what went wrong. As subscribers know, Erickson has only been heard from intermittently since then…

“This meeting, hearing - whatever you want to call it - really is out of frustration,” [Sen. Dale Risinger (R-Peoria)] said. “The governor appointed Judge Erickson to get a quick report, a thorough report out of what happened so that we could take a look at what went wrong, why did it happen, how can we make corrections to it, how can we work forward and work through it.

“It’s eight, nine months later and we don’t have a report. I can’t imagine why it takes that long to write the report, release the report, that should have been out months ago.”

You could easily pass last night’s Peoria hearing off as a Republican political stunt, and it probably was. But the local Democrats aren’t fools. They showed up, too…

“I almost didn’t come tonight,” said Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who along with Reps. Jehan Gordon, D-Peoria, and Mike Smith, D-Canton, joined committee members on the Arbor Hall auditorium stage. “But I think what happened here was significant.”

Everybody knows the volatility of this issue to the locals, because a prisoner released under the botched MGT Push program was reincarcerated, released again and allegedly committed a murder there. That second release also created a huge local controversy because Gov. Pat Quinn tried to place the blame for that second release on the Prisoner Review Board, but the PRB had documentation showing that a Quinn administration employee had recommended a relatively short incarceration period.

* Every time I write about this issue, some people come to the blog and complain that the director of the Department of Corrections was just doing his job. The real issue, they say, is the state needed to save money and Director Michael Randle did that when he released those prisoners early.

Their arguments are bogus. First, Randle allegedly defied a direct order from Gov. Quinn not to use his office’s discretion to release violent prisoners early without cause, and then allegedly covered it up. Second, the move probably cost a lot more than it saved because Corrections scrambled for weeks to round up all those violent parolees before they hurt an innocent citizen and cost Quinn the primary election.

Judge Erickson needs to release that report, which was due in January. Let’s find out what “really” happened.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

21 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 10:54 am:

    But the local Democrats aren’t fools.

    And you correctly point out that only fools want this thing buried. This is a non-political issue. People are dead because of this stupid stunt. It wasn’t supposed to happen. We must find out what did happen and ensure citizens that it will never happen again.

    I hope Quinn get roasted over this until he cooperates at a level he would have expected of a governor. What ever happened to this guy?


  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:00 am:

    It’s in Quinn’s interest to get a report out ASAP. Today would probably be good, given Blagomania, vacations, mosquitoes and the stinking heat.

    Jason Plummer might want to invite reporters to review his taxes today at a stagnant pond in Shawnee National Forest.


  3. - Way Way Down Here - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:10 am:

    ===Jason Plummer might want to invite reporters to review his taxes today at a stagnant pond in Shawnee National Forest.===

    Looking at one right now—don’t see Jason.


  4. - Robert - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:15 am:

    Quinn probably was foolishly hoping to bury this report past the election - that isn’t going to work. wordslinger’s right - get that report out today; the sooner the better for Quinn. Brady still has plenty of fodder to use on this issue for campaign ads. Quinn’s delay is just making things worse for himself.


  5. - in the know - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:18 am:

    Heard about the hearing in peoria from a friend. apparently Leitch put the dems on the spot. Asked Koehler to “correct the record in the media” about this being a stunt before the hearing began (hence the “something significant happened here”) and called Jehan and Mike on the carpet for “being required by Speaker Madigan to vote against a bi-partisan investigation”. Leading to J.Gordon’s “No Speaker, No Governor, No One tells me how to vote!” Repeated twice.
    According to Koehler, Sen. Cullerton has agreed to a bi-partisan effort to get to the bottom of things.


  6. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:23 am:

    Perhaps the Quinn has seen the report, or maybe a draft, and it is damming to him, politically. He might be sitting on it until after November.


  7. - the Patriot - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    Like a lot of Quinn’s mistakes he tries to fix the symptom and not the problem. We didn’t have a problem with too many useful citizens in prison. We have a problem in that HE refused to fire the “administrative” cronies of him and Blago and replace them with much needed front line staff. He also is pandering to Obama so we will lose a much needed facility in Thompson.

    If you are the Governor and don’t understand recidivism rates and know that this plan was going to explode on your, your IQ probably qualifies you for a group home.

    Trying to bury the report is another disaster. These lawmakers have given him an out. Release it and try to recover before the election. What happens October 25th whan another one of your early releasees kills someone else and it comes out you burried the report for a year. You messed once with the early release. The idea that his cover is combined into additional deaths puts him into the Ryan and Blago section of the Illinois Governor hall of shame.

    How about you admit the mistake, initiate a plan that parole officers are vigorously following up with those involved in the program to ensure public safety and move on.


  8. - bartelby - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    The story of Edjuan Payne, who committed a murder after he was released, is disturbing. But the crime for which Payne was incarcerated when he received the usual good time credit was relatively minor, and a number of trained professionals – including conservatives on the Prisoner Review Board – determined that any threat posed by his release was small. They made a mistake that turned out to be tragic. Some prisoners – whenever they are released – will recommit crimes, and there is no reason to believe that a few extra days or weeks in prison will turn a criminal with evil intent into a model citizen. The only proven method of reducing recidivism is education, rehabilitation, and jobs. MGT is part of nearly every sentencing regime in the country and is effective at keeping low level offenders from cogging the jails and bankrupting the states.


  9. - Dan Bureaucrat - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    The Peoria murder is heartbreaking and everyone has the right to understand how it happened. Quinn has done about the worst job communicating about this that he possibly could. And that itself is a sign of political cowardice and moral weakness.

    Regardless, people simply don’t want to accept how it did happen. The parole board has explained it (I’m paraphrasing), “Our most conservative members released him because his parole violation was not that serious. It was a routine decision made all the time, and if we locked everyone up for minor parole violations, then we couldn’t build prisons fast enough.”

    The facts are:
    1) We have to let people out
    2) We have an unbelievably high recidivism rate so some people will commit new crimes when they get out and some won’t
    3) Since we don’t know who will and who won’t (and since we as a society mostly don’t believe in preventative detention), we need to use evidence-based corrections practices that are proven to lower the whole recidivism rate. That is the only way to reduce future victims.

    You simply can’t blame a public official every time someone commits a new crime. People who work in corrections and parole have thankless enough jobs. Now we hold them responsible for the unpredictable human condition. Sheesh. There was nothing in the system that anyone could have expected to do differently.

    I am really disgusted by the press misinformation about this issue. Again, whatever risk this man, and everyone affected by MGT Push posed to the public: they would have posed the same risk an average of 37 days later. Do people realize that? All these people had a legal right to this sentence reduction, they served all the time that was required by law, and they were going to be out an average of 37 days later no matter what the IDOC did.

    In fact, they might have posed an EVEN GREATER risk if released later. Keeping these short-termer guys locked up longer only increases their recidivism rates.

    The real farce is that none of the legislators ranting about this actually work to lower recidivism, which is the one and only way to bring down the number of future victims. This is how we should hold the system accountable. Quinn? Brady? Hello?


  10. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 12:12 pm:

    Governor transparency is staying as far away from this as possible. Haven’t you heard about the sales tax holiday?


  11. - Bill - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 12:37 pm:

    Does anybody really believe that Randle cut the criminals loose on his own, let alone despite Quinn’s so called order?
    He was the one following orders from Quinn and maybe the report says just that.


  12. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 12:39 pm:

    Apparently Dillard,Brady missed the vote to abolish the early release program. Perhaps Leitch was dozin’ during the House roll call, hence his continuing fetish with a bipartisan probe. Perhaps he needs to check out a bright shinny badge and gun from StateWideTom’s toy chest. Stick’em up!


  13. - Dan Bureaucrat - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 1:11 pm:

    I got so lured by all the Blago news that I failed to read Rich’s post as thoroughly as I normally do.

    Yes, Rich makes a great point on his second argument. This did not end up saving the state money b/c they went out and dragged many of these guys back into prison after their release for minor parole violations that normally would not have required them to return to prison. They subjected them to new rules requiring them to make daily phone reports and twice-weekly visits to a parole office, sometimes hundreds of miles from their homes. But this insanity was obviously put in place after Hynes was ravaging Quinn, and Quinn wimped out and wanted all the prisoners back. He also halted a cost-saving program that used electronic monitoring to relieve overcrowding and keep track of people at home. On the other hand, some money was probably saved on the successful individuals and it would be interesting to see how much. It costs a hell of a lot to incarcerate–anything else frees up a lot of money….

    Because Quinn took the strategy of repudiating the whole program instead of explaining it, the Hynes attack version is the only version people know. And the press still presents misinformation about these sentences. They would say, for example, that someone got sentenced 4 years and only served 1 month b/c of the IDOC. That is totally ridiculous. These people got sentence credit for their long stays in jail, then they get statutory good-time, and by then they have very short sentences left in the actual state prison where they have other good-time credits available. But this doesn’t mean anyone gets off easy. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys all understand this and take it into account when sentencing and plea bargaining.

    Anyway, Quinn blew his chance to communicate about this, even to legislators…..that moment is truly gone. And could people have understood it even if he did? All he would have had to say was: 1) it did not increase the risk to public safety (again, these people would have been let out an average of 37 days later anyway) and 2) it may have lowered it (shorter sentences for short-termers means less recidivism). 3) we need the money for programs proven to lower recidivism. I’m not sure the public can handle policy analysis and balancing risks and expenses, but in this case, they never had the chance.

    It will be interesting to see what he does with these Chicago hearings and the Erickson report. Ok, back to Blago and other train wrecks…


  14. - Will County Woman - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 3:22 pm:

    After the primary Mike Madigan was asked what he thought of the Brady v. Quinn matchup. A good democrat, Madigan said that he thought the race would be close, but in the end Quinn would pull through. (Madigan is also chairman of the IL Dem Party, so he perhaps a little biased?)

    During the interview Madigan talked about Hynes was able to inflict some serious damage to Quinn with the MGT Push issue, and that this was where Hynes found a real opening to use that resonated w/voters.

    Madigan was incredulous (look on his face and tone of his voice) at the Quinn suggestion that Mike Randle had done him (Quinn) wrong and disobyed orders, yet with all of that Quinn just couldn’t find it in his heart to fire Randle.

    Quinn might as well just come clean with the report and its findings. I can’t see any other way for him.


  15. - dupage dan - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 4:24 pm:

    Ah, Gov Quinn. Governin’ is sure harder than being a CUB press conference gadly don’t ya know. But ya had to reach higher than your grasp and yer fallin ‘n crashin’ ta the green earth. Tis sad.


  16. - downstater - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 5:05 pm:

    Quinn’s only salvation, if there is one at this point, is to fire Randall. Big mistake when he didn’t fire him from the start. Corrections is an absolute mess. Randall is in over his head and Quinn needs to do the poor guy a favor and cut him loose.


  17. - southern illinoisan - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 5:36 pm:

    There is more mistakes regarding early release than just the MGT push. There should be questions asked regarding the longstanding program - Earned Good Conduct Credit. This program awards time reducation to inmtes for participation in Education, Sub Abuse, and certain work programs. Over the years it has proven to be a successful tool in motivating inmates to improve and also save the DOC money by early release. It was closely monitored to insure that the EGCC was earned and not given away to inmates. Becuase of staffing cuts, there is very little scrunity and the monitioring is non-existent. Since 2004, I would speculate that many offenders were released early from prison by getting EGCC that thet did not earn. If the public only knew the truth, they would demand serious change.


  18. - bartelby - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 5:52 pm:

    If we ended all MGT, the prison population would continue to balloon, and the state would go even further in debt. New York state cut its prison population by 20% and its crime rate went down 30% over ten years. New Jersey, Michigan, and even Republican Kansas have used MGT (or its equivalent) to reduce prison numbers. To all those who say thumbs down to MGT, I ask: “What’s your plan to reduce the Illinois prison population”?


  19. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 5:53 pm:

    bartelby, your argument takes things to the illogical extreme and doesn’t add much to the debate. Just sayin.

    It’s not about ending everything, it’s about what happened last year.


  20. - Dan Bureaucrat - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 6:28 pm:

    Southern illinoisan is right about that. The IDOC has been a serious mess the entire time Walker was in office. S.E.R.I.O.U.S. Randle has very resourcefully and quietly cleaned up a lot and started new initiatives–and I have no idea why Quinn doesn’t publicize this a lot more.

    There are some grumpy old-time IDOC folks that don’t like change one bit, and are angry that Molina didn’t get his job, but many, many people in IDOC do like working for him, and appreciate his hands-on approach. Legislators like him a lot too because he has made the agency open and transparent. Legislators use to tell advocates that they had to submit FOIA requests for information and statistics about the most basic IDOC data because they couldn’t get it from Walker. Imagine that level of obstructionism and stupidity.

    If Randle can survive Quinn, and if Quinn can survive this election, we will see a lot of smart-on-crime reforms. Those are both big IFs.


  21. - southern illinoisan - Thursday, Aug 12, 10 @ 8:08 pm:

    I respectfully disagree with Dan Bureaucrat. The only real way we are going to see serious change in DOC or state government for that matter is if Quinn loses the election.

    Other than Randle, Quinn has made very few changes from the Blagojevich admin. Why? Because they are all Democrats. This may sound partisan, because it is. There have been very few changes in DOC at the institutional level since Randle’s arrival. In So.Il. we have two wardens who are demoting to mid-level jobs so they can get union protection to avoid 24 furlough days. It is pretty bad when senior management is jumping ship because of the poor leadership of the governor.

    Morale is terrible amongst state employees and it will not improve under the current leadership.


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