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Stuff that makes me sick to my stomach

Wednesday, Oct 29, 2008

* Oh, yeah, this’ll help a lot. I’m positive, even. From a press release…

Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the creation of an inter-agency task force to ease the impact that the closure of Pontiac Correctional Center will have on the community, including businesses and local governments. The Task Force will pool all available and necessary state resources to preserve the economic well-being and quality of life for Pontiac and surrounding communities.

“I am creating this Task Force to develop real solutions and find ways to help the Pontiac community during this transition, and give them the help they need so people can support their families and pay the bills during these tough economic times,” said Governor Blagojevich. “By bringing together representatives from the state’s agencies and local leaders, we will be able to look at the issue in detail and utilize a wide array of resources to help the Pontiac community as it goes through this transition.”

Look, I’m not a big fan of using prisons for economic development, and the Pontiac prison is decades past its prime. But to knock the legs out from under a town by moving a prison that’s been there for over a hundred years and then making an empty gesture like this is truly insulting.

* Now, onto some even more troubling (and related) news.

Suspicion has been brewing for months that Gov. Blagojevich was sitting on dozens of pardon and commutation applications for fear that he might pardon the “wrong” person and that would come back to haunt him.

Ironically, at the same time, I’ve been hearing behind the scenes murmurs that the Department of Corrections’ parole office was deliberately refusing to revoke parole for offenders for fear of prison overcrowding (exacerbated by lack of staff) and jacking up the recidivism rate (which would create more press problems). These sources have insisted that a tragedy was imminent.

Well, we appear to have our tragedy, and it’s a doozy

Busted for what police said was a rock of cocaine on the driver’s seat of his car, William Balfour could have been spending the past few months behind bars for a parole violation.

The 27-year-old felon was instead allowed to remain free and is now considered a suspect in the deaths of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

On the day the victims were fatally shot and the young boy went missing, Balfour told his parole agent he had missed a meeting because he was baby-sitting, records show. […]

A parole supervisor declined to issue a warrant to revoke Balfour’s parole after the arrest, records show.

“Per supervisor … no warrant,” the report reads. “Agent to monitor offender, impose sanctions.”

Corrections Department spokesman Derek Schnapp said officials who reviewed the cocaine-possession case against Balfour determined “the evidence that was presented during that time wouldn’t have necessarily warranted a violation.” […]

However, a felony arrest usually is sufficient reason for corrections officials to revoke parole, said Thomas Peters, a Chicago criminal defense attorney who represents parolees.

This requires a full legislative investigation, with subpoena power. We need to know what’s really going on at the DoC. Now.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Black Ivy - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:25 am:

    Why the creation of “an inter-agency task force to ease the impact that the closure of Pontiac Correctional Center” makes you sick to your stomach is beyond me? The Governor retains the right to close the prison and transfer its inmates. Creating a task force to ease the transition may be long overdue, but is a prudent move, Rich? You can’t even muster up a compliment for Rod, can you? Geez.

  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:25 am:


  3. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:26 am:

    BI, try to contain yourself, please. I’ve complimented the governor on more occasions than just about any other Statehouse reporter.

    Bite me.

  4. - Speaking At Will - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:27 am:

    There are no words.

  5. - Plutocrat03 - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    Appalling on 2 levels

    One is that the closing of the Pontiac facility appears to be for reasons other than the benefit of the mission of the DoC. Whether it should remain open or closed should be independent of the economic consequences on the individual community. It should be for the benefit of the entire state. So far the public information available points to a political reason which would be inappropriate.

    Two is the seemingly inconsistent reasons to revoke parole for criminal arrests. This places the public in unnecessary danger. Could this be Gov. B’s Willie Horton moment?

  6. - Vote Quimby! - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:36 am:

    Black Ivy: because those ‘inter-agency task forces’ are little more than open houses where state agencies have their flunkies pass out brochures. You can’t take away 600 jobs from a town that size and throw paper at it…. Geez.

  7. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:36 am:

    The Hudson case is a tragedy beyond imagining.

    Balfour hasn’t been charged and the decision not to revoke his parole even though he was supposedly found with illegal drugs could be well within the discretion of the decision-makers in Corrections. As it should be. We simply can’t put people in jail for life because they are using drugs–even people with bad records. Balfour had served his time. I don’t think this says anything about IDOC although a review of parole revocation protocols might be in order, if it can be done objectively.

    Given the extreme disproportionality of African American males in the US and Illinois correctional systems, a parole revocation panic in IDOC could
    be one of the worst outcomes of this tragedy.

  8. - Vote Quimby! - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:37 am:

    Impeach him. Impeach him now.

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    ===Balfour had served his time===

    Um, no. If you’re on parole, you haven’t served all your time.

  10. - OneMan - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:48 am:

    Creating a ‘task force’ two months before the place is going to close is like offering your date cab fare to get home. Also this state and this administration is riddled with ‘task forces’ and committees that never meet and do jack.

    Remember safe video games?

    Rod’s ability to placate at this point knows no limits.

    Using your logic the captain of the titanic did fine because some people were able to get into the life boats, the only difference is in this case he didn’t lower them until the stern was already below water.

  11. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    I’m not surprised. I suspect you have to do a lot more than get caught with a rock to be sent back for a parole violation.

    It’s been many years since I’ve been a cop reporter, but back then, you didn’t even look to round up folks who had outstanding warrants or had found to be in violation of parole unless they were big fish or there was a reasonable threat of imminent violence.

    It was a manpower thing. The though was most of these guys were so dumb that they would do something stupid to get themselves caught without you having to go look for them.

  12. - Pontiac is more than an auto, but less than a belief system - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:51 am:

    Look, I’ll be the first to admit that the reasons for the Pontiac closure are less than honorable. And I agree with Rich that prisons in general are a horrible economic development tool for more reasons than I care to write about (although I will note that most, if not all, of that “economic development” occurred under Republican administrations). And, for the record, I hate this governor and deeply regret voting for him in the 2002 general election (the only time I cast a ballot for him, and yes, I voted in the primaries and the generals).

    But, all that being said, Pontiac should’ve been closed a long time ago. It’s ancient, decrepit and the state saves money operating Thomson in its place. It’s little savings like that, multiplied several times over by identifying other opportunities, that will help us with the budget mess, even if at the end of the day we still have the structural problem that also needs to be dealt with.

    I understand you feel bad for the good folks of Pontiac, and they are good folks. I have a relative who works at that prison and he will either have to relocate or lose his job. Pontiac, the town, has benefitted substantially from the fact that the prison has been there as long as it has. Otherwise, it would be much like the rest of the communities in that neck of the woods — grain elevator, maybe a factory in danger of closing, a Wal Mart, and not much else. It’s time that everyone, from Pontiac to Chicago to Shawneetown to every other state in the nation, realizes the impact of government’s profligate spending without supporting revenue, thanks it for what its done so far, and moves on trying to make a better life for themselves in whatever way possible.

    As for DoC, isn’t this unsurprising? It is to me. The last Governor was a crook, the last Director was a crook, this governor is looking like a crook, so what do we expect of his appointments? Corrections has a long history of both malfeasance and misfeasance, this shouldn’t shock us too much. We should just hope that moving forward, the system is revamped and reformed. Can U.S. Atty Fitzgerald seize oversight?

    My idea is simple — release non-violent drug offenders and don’t put any more in there. Then we shutter a few more of those economic development tools.

  13. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:52 am:

    Parole revocations, when not done in 100% of all ticky-tacky infractions, are still a roll of the dice. In most cases, a repeat offender will not do something that will make international headlines if they are let off the hook for a non-violent infraction. In an instance like this, everyone gets excited, the system clamps down and less exceptions are granted, until the whole thing dies down and we go back to business as usual. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the way of the world.

  14. - Black Ivy - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    I respectfully disgree with everyone on this issue, except the fact that Balfour technically has not completed his sentence.

    I am an attorney and know that parole is an extension of his sentence and any violation of parole should, and must, be taken very seriously by the Illinois Department of Corrections. As an African-American woman, I too am bothered by African-American disproportionate minority contact (the overabudance of African-American men in state correctional institutions) with the prison system, but I am equally appalled by the disproportionate amount of violence in pre-domiantely Black communities across the state. Simply put - we can, and must, do better.

    I support Governor Blagojevich’s intra-agency task force - better late than never.

    Rich, I don’t bite without consideration :)

  15. - Secret Square - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:58 am:

    For Rod to offer this kind of economic “help” to Pontiac is like stabbing someone in the back and then offering to get them a Band-Aid.

  16. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:04 pm:

    Here’s my Task force recommendation, and it won’t cost the state an extra cent.

    Keep piling the Chicago-area garbage higher and higher at Mount Livingston, and make sure the city gets their cut.

  17. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:12 pm:

    Q: Where is America’s largest landfill?

    A: Puente Hills Landfill in Whittier, California, received more garbage than any other landfill in America. That landfill accepted 3.7 million tons of MSW in 2003. However, if the criteria is remaining capacity for garbage, the Pontiac Landfill in Pontiac, Illinois, is largest with a remaining capacity of almost 233 million tons.

  18. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:15 pm:

    Well, ok, served his in-jail time. If he had been caught holding up a gas station, I would agree that a return to jail was appropriate. But having drugs in the car? Drug use is an addiction. Jail is not the answer.

    Again, the important thing is not to have this terrible case result in either a witch hunt against the IDOC people who made the field decision or a parole revocation panic which would
    disproportionately impact minority populations in Illinois.

  19. - Speaking At Will - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:15 pm:

    I have a question that I cant seem to get an answer on regarding this issue.

    Does the revocation of parole actually add to the recidivism statistics? An attorney told me this morning that offenders are only counted into the recidivism rate stats if they are released from prison / parole, then are sentenced again for antoher crime.

    It might seem like splitting hairs, but if parole violators are not counted in recidivism stats then that would not be a motivation to keep them on the streets.

  20. - IMBack - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:15 pm:

    Can Pontiac tell Rod thanks but no thanks, we don’t need your version of “help”? In a really snarky way, of course.

    Just WOW on the DoC. Illinois is in sorry shape.

  21. - GoBearsss - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:40 pm:

    Rich, I have a lot of respect for you. I think you know that. I have been here a while, providing hopefully helpful insight I can offer on some issues that matter a lot to me. I also know I have been useful as a foil, much in the line of Bill. In summary - I enjoy your work, and hope I contribute as well to this blog organism.

    However, I think you really have crossed the line here. Trying to connect the Hudson family murders with the Governor, or blaming them on the Governor, is beyond any measure of decency.

    I’m sorry, but it has to be said.

  22. - Wag - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 12:51 pm:

    On the other hand, taking the inmates out makes plenty of room for putting in an IDOT division….

  23. - Leroy - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:00 pm:

    Rich - what is the correct solution here? Just keep the prison open?

  24. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:07 pm:

    ===Trying to connect the Hudson family murders with the Governor, or blaming them on the Governor, is beyond any measure of decency.===

    DoC, not the governor personally, unless you know something I don’t.

    But let’s try this one on for size…

    SoS chief of staff puts pressure on local SoS offices to sell fundraising tix. Many local offices then exchange DSLs for contributions. One driver gets a DSL when he probably shouldn’t have, a while later a hunk of metal falls off his truck in Wisconsin, a driver from Illinois runs over said piece of metal and his minivan bursts into flames and his six children die.

    SoS is blamed. SoS says it’s indecent to blame him.

  25. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:12 pm:

    I understand they don’t want to put someone who seemingly had a job, and family back in jail for 1 rock. It is not worth the cost (in hindsight). Who’d have thought he would do this?

  26. - BandCamp - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:15 pm:

    BI- You should be bothered, but as a citizen of the state of this nation, not as an A-A woman. Crime is crime. It bothers me in general, no matter the race. Whatever one’s condition, social or otherwise, resorting to crime and then trying to connect it to environment or whatever is what bothers me. And I don’t even want to get into a big discussion about it. I just don’t buy it.

    And GoB? This whole parole thing was the Governor’s idea. And without giving away too much about me, I was one degree away from that program and also know for a fact that agents were told, specifically, by the Governor’s arm at DOC to NOT violate some of these characters back to prison. I made some noise and was told to shut it. Can’t fight the power. But it made me sick because the program is/was far from making a difference on its own merits.

    Rich, you are right on with your comments. Period. That agency is m-e-s-s.

  27. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:16 pm:

    ===Who’d have thought he would do this? ===

    This was not a non-violent offender. From the story…

    ===Balfour was paroled after serving seven years for a 1999 attempted murder and vehicular hijacking conviction.===

  28. - Retired Happy - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:20 pm:

    I was wondering when this was going to hit the fan.I recently retired from the State Police and had been fed up with IDOC actions or should I say failure to act for years. In support of IDOC this comes from Blago not from rank and file of IDOC, and no one in IDOC better say any negative word on this subject or else they are gone. For years I worked narcotics and had many of yelling matches with IDOC Parole supervisors on their failure to revoke a parolee after he was arrested by my unit for delivery of cocaine and you better forget it if it was delivery of cannabis , they would laugh at you. We once had a parolee in Kendall County who was arrested for selling meth to a undercover officer on several occassions and was on parole after serving a few years on a DeKalb County charge of possession of meth with intent to deliver. The request was made to IDOC issue a parole hold on him and they refused, that was the last straw, the States Atty said if they didn’t issue the hold the press would be contacted , you got, in a flash they issued the parole hold warrant. Bottom line , IDOC doesn’t want to revoke a parolee because they don’t have room , but more important this would send the recidivism rate in a nose dive, this guy was arrested for a charge higher than the one he was on parole for, it is a sham and smoke and mirrors from Blago.The press needs to do a review of parolees in last 5 years and I bet you would find that 75% had been arrested while on parole.

  29. - Princess - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:30 pm:

    —Well, ok, served his in-jail time. If he had been caught holding up a gas station, I would agree that a return to jail was appropriate. But having drugs in the car? Drug use is an addiction. Jail is not the answer.—

    When finally took into custody though he had failed to attend anger management counseling and a sustance abuse program. How much did his lack of ‘anger management’ or his drug addiction play in any murders? What happens when the state budget cuts for sustance abuse starts affecting other ‘just drug’ violators? He may have choose to ignore programs, but what about the addicts that want help and have found funds slashed?

  30. - Frank Booth - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:34 pm:

    Using the Harrisburg example, I’m sure the gov’s task force will recommend relocating the Thompson Center to Pontiac to help shore up the local economy in the wake of the prison closing.

  31. - BandCamp - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:37 pm:

    Princess, I just pulled all the hair out of my head. Jail is the answer for illegal acts. Drugs=illegal. And yah, you violate the law, you should sent back to prison if you are parole, no matter what the drug.

  32. - Princess - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:48 pm:

    Bandcamp, my first paragraph was a quote from Cassandra. I was replying with my thoughts on her statement.

  33. - Captain Flume - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:49 pm:

    Connecting the Governor (or his actions) to those murders is like connecting George Ryan (or his actions) to the death of the Willises, isn’t it? Plenty of people, even on this blog, do the latter.

  34. - Dan S. a Voter and Cubs Fan - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 1:54 pm:

    The Gov & his Cronies have all but bankrupted the State of Illinois and now they have blood on their hands. When is this madness going to come to an end. The GA needs sprout a pair and impeach this clown before he does any more damage.

  35. - BandCamp - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 2:11 pm:

    Captain, are agreeing or disagreeing with your comment? Operation Spotlight = Governor’s Office initiative. Parole agents were not allowed to use their own discretion in violating parolees once this program was set in motion. The goal of the program was to reduce recidivism rates. The program demanded results from the Governor’s office. How is that not a logical connection from the top down?

  36. - Captain Flume - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 3:17 pm:

    BC– Just saying the beat of a butterfly’s wing in Peru can cause a typhoon in Taiwan. On the other hand, I should read the Illuminati Trilogy again.

  37. - Doggone - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 3:30 pm:

    Closing Pontiac and opening Thomson Prison is the single most prudent act taken in the entire Blagojvich’ Administration.

  38. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 3:42 pm:

    If using cocaine (or having it in the car) resulted in automatic jail time, there would be a ton of middle (and upper middle) class white guys (and gals) in jail on drug offenses. There aren’t. The solution isn’t to put them there.

  39. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 3:51 pm:

    Before pulling the trigger, Guido looked upon his soon-to-be late accountant/informer mornfully and said, “I know I don’t have to do this, but I wanna. So, to help ease my conscience, I will create a group of guys to develop real solutions and find ways to help your family during this transition, and give them the help they need so they can support themselves and pay the bills during these tough economic times”.

    Suddenly, a single shot echoed through the vacant warehouse that pierced Guido’s trenchcoat, knocking his revolver from his hand.

    “Hands up, Guido!”, Patrick Fitzgerald shouted as he entered the room. “We’ve had enough of your antics for the past seven years!”

  40. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 3:54 pm:

    If using cocaine (or having it in the car) resulted in automatic jail time, there would be a ton of middle (and upper middle) class white guys (and gals) in jail on drug offenses.

    Using cocaine at home or some other discreet place other than a crack house is less likely to attract the attention of the law. Especially for someone with no prior record. Setting aside the race issue for a moment, some drug users do things other than use or sell drugs that are against the law. Most reasonable people would rather live in a neighborhood with little overt drug use, or evidence of it, than in a drug-infested neighborhood, and for good cause. And I would venture there are a few drug-using middle and upper class white folks that probably belong in jail.

  41. - Pontiac - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 4:05 pm:

    Alot of people on here say Pontiac should close.
    But none of them work for IDOC or for that matter at Pontiac. In the last 10 years 27.3 million has been put in to Pontiac for upgrades. Pontiac is old but it is not falling down unlike Stateville Prison in Joliet over 1/2 of the cellhouse are condemed and is such bad shape the can not house inmates in them. The closure of Pontiac is not because it is falling apart it’s because of Illinois politics and an out of control Governor.
    Closing Pontiac is going to make a bad situation worse…………..

  42. - Princess - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 4:32 pm:

    Pontiac, would you happen to know the condition of the buildings at Menard Correctional compared to the building in Pontiac? I had not realized untiol now that Menard is but a few years younger than Ponatic.

    [The Southern ran a story by Kurt Erickson earlier this afternoon] “Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp said the on-going closing of Pontiac is not related to the recent spike in violence at Menard.But, Schnapp acknowledged prisons through Illinois are in a state of tension because of the fallout from closing Pontiac.'’Right now, I think everything is heightened because of the Pontiac thing,'’ Schnapp said.—

    With Menard having a capacity of 1,938 and a average daily population of 3,315 and being opened in March of 1878 compared to Pontiac’s June of 1871 and with a less crowded population was there any thought into which prison would actually be best closed or moving inmates from? As we were goig to close yet a different prison one week and switched to Pontiac closing the next week, I was curious as to how the select process compared Menard to Pontiac if at all. All I hear is Pontiac is old and it will save blah dollars. Were there comparings done to judge one prison over another?

  43. - He makes Ryan look like a Saint - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 4:54 pm:

    I agree with Rich, the ADMINISTRATION if found to issue orders regarding revoking parole, is guilty of the SAME thing Ryan’s Administration was.

    It is time, that the Governor, and ALL his henchmen be thrown out. Either Impeached or indited. Once again I ask….HOW MUCH DAMAGE CAN THIS ADMINISTRATION DO DURING THE NEXT TWO YEARS???

  44. - DzNts - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 5:09 pm:

    Let’s not forget that this is not just about Pontiac. The shifty one has also authorized signficant transfers from other prisons, including a large number in southern Illinois. If you keep transfering prisoners and if you don’t put parole violators BACK in prison, the workers at the other prisons will eventually lose their jobs. They all can’t be reassigned to Thompson.

    This is a domino effect at its worst and it could have been prevented. Also, to those who say the Governor has the authority to transfer inmates, I don’t disagree but you also must admit, then, to follow logic and fact, that the GA has appropriated money in this budget to fund operations at Pontiac. Closing Pontiac in the absence of legislative authority seems to be tantamount to ignoring a constitutional oath. Granted, Rod has done that repeatedly, but when you start adding all these examples of probable misfeasance, eventually the stuff is going to hit the fan.

    These prison shenanigans are putting people’s lives in danger. They are tearing communities apart and are in direct conflict with the votes of the General Assembly.

    Playing politics with prisons will come back to haunt all involved.

  45. - southern illinoisan - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 5:13 pm:

    I am a 16 year veteran of the IDOC and I can tell you that things are worse now than ever before. Total and complete incompetence and mismanagement by senior staff. Cassandra and the rest of the bleeding heart liberals should tour Pontiac CC before you shoot your mouth off. It is NOT in poor condition, actually it is very well maintained and in excellent shape. Thomson was not built to replace any existing prison. It was built to increase maximum security bedspace which is extremely overcrowded. Closing Pontiac is a blatant political move by this Governor.

    If we need to close a prison, a bi-partisan committee should be formed to study the issue and then develop a 5, 10, 15+ year plan to phase out older facilities in a reasonable non-political manner.

    Regarding the Hudson murders and parole issue. I agree with Rich. There should be an immediate investigation in to IDOC parole revocation practices. I know 1st hand of parolees not being violated after they were arrested for more serious offenses than drug possession. The Blago admin does not want any negative press to tarnish their fabricated re-entry data, because it is bogus enough already. These people push so much propaganda that the citizens of this state have no idea what is true and what is made up. I know that the IDOC has knowingly and willfully withheld or manipulated information that went to the General Assembly.

    You liberals can downplay the Hudson murder issue all you want. Facts are facts and this administration can’t run from the truth if the public starts demanding some answers.

  46. - pontiacstaff - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 5:16 pm:

    “Decades past its prime?” Unless you think the White House should also be closed, I would not make ridiculous comments such as that. The White House was built long before Pontiac Corr.Center. The condition of Pontiac Corr Center is not what DOC/the Gov would have one think it is. The COGFA hearing in August ‘08 and the independent study that the State of Illinois had done (Dewberry Report) both proved it was irresponsible and wrong to close Pontiac. For the Gov. to go from closing Stateville on a Friday, and early the next Monday change to closing Pontiac Corr Center should be a clear indicator that this is a political move only (Livingston Co. is a largely Republican County and has been for years). No one is saying ‘don’t open Thomson.’ We are saying open Thomson, but keep Pontiac open because it is needed and it works.

  47. - Dem61350 - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 5:18 pm:

    Bottom line is this: Parolees are Not being violated as they should be. (Balfour is a perfect example- It was a parolee with Crack!) There is NO room for them! The last thing that should happen in the Dept. of Corruption - I mean Corrections is that ANY prison should be closed! Pontiac should remain open AND Thompson should be opened.
    This tragedy could have been prevented! Dozens if not hundreds of people are victims of crimes prevented by parolees who should be back in prison. The only reason they are not back in prison is because the agents aren’t issued warrants by their supervisors!
    Pontiac serves it purpose perfectly- it houses this states “worst of the worse” it is very effective prison within this system. It actually deters violence throughtout every other prison in the state.
    Closing Pontiac will have a devastating effect on every prison in the system- it also puts public saftey at risk in every community these prisons are in!
    Enough is Enough! Pontiac should stay open and Thompson should be gradually opened to reduce the seroius overcrowding in this system.
    Staff these prisons properly and hire competent administrators to run them.

  48. - parole agent - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 5:25 pm:

    Rich you hit it on the head! DOC has been doing this for years. You only know now because it was Jennifer Hudsons family. He needs the numbers down to close prisons at a severe risk to the citizens. And DOC will keep doing it unless someone stops them. Please Rich don’t let this story die.

  49. - DOC Sgt. - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 6:20 pm:

    Rich, you should also dig in to how much $ DOC is paying Cook Co. Jail to house inmates who have been sentenced to DOC, but we don’t have the room for them. Pontiac CC IS in good physical shape. It should not be closed. Thompson could open, Pontiac could stay open, the rest of the state prisons would STILL be packed to the gills, if DOC would violate the parolees who need to be violated (dirty drug tests six months straight, yet no violation?!) As was mentioned before, this is all about Rod touting how recidivism numbers are down.

  50. - Southern Illinois - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 6:42 pm:

    It is about time people open their eyes to the IDOC, Officials have for the last five years told parole agents do not revoke parole. Have any of you heard of the “Last,Last,Last Chance Program?
    This program basically makes the parolee
    promise to follow the law. Yeah o.k. What it amounts to is a green light for these guys to go about their business and know the have no chance of going back to the joint. IDOC top brass: Walker, Bard, Montgomery, and their loyal flunkies are responsible for this tragic event that could have been prevented.

    Of all the Level 1 facilities in the IDOC, Pontiac is by far in better shape both from a structural stand point and a safety factor. Stateville is in the worst shape and the inside should be closed.

    But we all know what happened their.

  51. - Makes Sense to Me... - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 7:02 pm:

    According to several studies, $1 spent on recovery programs and treatment saves States $7 on cost of crime, hospitalization, foster care, incarceration, etc. Common sense tells us to expect a further rise in crime and rising back end costs to Illinois taxpayers without substance abuse funding. Recent Illinois study released in May, showed a successful reduction in recidivism rate for prison saved State $64,000,000 over 4 years by including recovery transitional housing after prison. Could Balfour been a candidate for a transitional recovery program while on parole? Was he a known addict? Did he get treatment while in prison? If so would a recovery program helped him upon release, like it has helped hundreds of others transition safely back into the community with supportive services, job training, etc.? Jail is not an answer for non-violent substance abusers, recovery programs are.

  52. - pontiacstaff - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 7:12 pm:

    Just something else I remembered: In August ‘08, at the State Fair on Governor’s Day, a Pontiac woman made a point of talking with the Governor. She asked him about why he was closing Pontiac. The Governor’s response was “I don’t want to close Pontiac. Go back and tell your senator (Sen. Dan Rutherford, Republican) to ‘let go of the money.’ What does that tell you?

  53. - Man Who Grew Up Reading Chicago Today - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 7:19 pm:

    This is astounding. The pamphlets remind me of when Wal-Mart held seminars for rural drug and variety stores about how to survive after they ran them out of town (and out of their lives.)

    “Orwellian, Twilight-Zonean, Narcissistic and Weird: The Milorad Blagojevich Story.”

    Forward by???

  54. - Master of the Oblivious - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 7:30 pm:

    IDOC is riddled with imcompetencies at the top level, Director and Chief of Staff especially so much so that I’ll bet most people have forgotten that several IDOC employees almost got fired upon by prison guards when their State helicopter landed unannounced in a prison yard. Lucky no one was killed at that time. All from the Guv on down running IDOC should resign immediately.

  55. - Bookworm - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 7:39 pm:

    But, Makes Sense, aren’t the drug and alcohol addiction programs also among the things Blago insists upon cutting? And, as Rich pointed out, Balfour was hardly a “non violent” offender, having already done time for attempted murder and carjacking.

  56. - Makes Sense to Me... - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 8:03 pm:

    Bookworm, yes…drug and alcohol addiction funding has been cut by 43% or $110 million including $55 million feds match state dollar for dollar…even after the Illinois study released in May that showed cost savings of $64 million over 4 years for proven transitional recovery programs I described. I know, not logical “why cut if they were working both for “afflicted” and taxpayers??”…Mr. Balfour may not have qualified due to violent background…my guess is his crimes escalated due to failure to address underlying issue of drug abuse or alcoholism from the beginning. I could be wrong, don’t know Balfour’s story nor do I want to convict him, without his day in court. But there are lots of non-violent Balfour’s out there that need proven recovery programs over jail or at least after jail to provide maximum assurance of mainstreaming with supportive housing, job training, jobs,affordable housing etc. to reduce recidivism…worth the investment 7 fold. We need to ask Gov to sign bill 1103 to restore! The general assembly already did UNANIMOUSLY!!!

  57. - Pontiac - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 9:28 pm:

    To Princess…..I don’t know the conditions of the buildings at Menard but I do know it floods every couple of years. They say Pontiac was built in 1871 what they don’t tell you is there are no buildings at Pontiac from 1871…The oldest is 1898 then the next was built in the 1930’s then the Msu they call the farm the was built in the 1960’s and one of the dorms in the 1980’s
    So they need to tell the truth…not just half.

  58. - Snidely Whiplash - Wednesday, Oct 29, 08 @ 11:05 pm:

    Well, the problem is that, if you revoke his parole, it’s “racist.”

  59. - In the Sticks - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 1:15 am:

    U worked at Corrections for the first 1 1/2 years of this administration. It was very apparent that the Director was not the person in charge of the department. His authority extended to appointing his secretary and an assistant. All major decisions were made by the Assistant Director Deanne Benos (housed in the JRTC. Not known to visit many, if any, of the IDOC facilities) She worked with the governor in some of his past positions, and was part of the Clinton White House. Her priorities have been gun control and reducing recidivism. Her bio on the IDOC website is interesting reading, especially when you think that she is setting policy for the entire department, assisted by a bunch of county committee chairmen who have absolutely no experience with corrections.

  60. - In the Sticks - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 1:20 am:

    If you remember, this governor made the same promise to Hopkins Park after work was halted on the women’s correctional center in that community. There were a couple bus tours with Jesse Jackson, a few meetings with a number of agencies in attendance, and then nothing else of substance. If you went to Hopkins Park today, there would be nothing to show for all the coordinated agency intervention in the village. Only the deserted facility site, with some construction completed, a couple of piles of dirt, abandoned wells, foundations and the start of a retention basin.

  61. - parole agent - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 7:25 am:

    It’s not only the adults that are not violated but it’s going on in the juvenile justice division also. Just watch the news. A so called “kid” is more likely to shoot you before a parole violation is issued. You just don’t hear it because their record is sealed .

  62. - Secret Square - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 9:26 am:

    Another Pantagraph story today notes that several no-bid contracts were recently awarded for upgrading Thomson facilities in preparation for all the new inmates coming from Pontiac.

  63. - Menard for a lifetime - Thursday, Oct 30, 08 @ 11:29 am:

    Menard in itself is indeed old. BUT many of the original buildings have been torn down. There are several new buildings inside the walls. The Administationa building has been vacated and set for re-building. The “farm” mentioned has been gone since 1993 or so. The “MSU” is a new building complex in a totally different location than the original “MSU”. The old “Psych” division building complexes have been taken over for more room for years now. Menard is not as old as it’s first corner stone. With revisions and new buildings and new complexes, it is as sound as any. I do not agree with the closing of ANY prison. It has negative impacts on all involved and puts undue pressure on an already high-stress job and overcrowded system. I have spent 25 years behind the walls of Menard in security. Corrections needs to be re-vamped, no argument there, BUT, it also needs to be done by a different set of individuals that are “running” it now. Someone from the inside that actuaully knows how a prison works. The system is going backwards and no one in a command position seems to be taking heed of the warnings of the “small fry” behind the walls that walk the galleries every day. And on the parole system . . . if out on parole, the full sentence is NOT SERVED. Anyone that gets out on parole is getting out “early”, usually from good behavior while “locked up”. Breaking the law, or the conditions of parole release, was enough to send one packing back to corrections. Period. There is no good from a system that does not continue to do so. Where’s the incentive to remain “rehabilitated” if a parolee break whatever law or condition of release and not “fear” going back to prison? Might as well stop letting anyone out on parole. And one last note, I am truly sorry to those employees and their families that work at Pontiac for the blow that the current governor has dealt them.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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