State prison officials hold close to 1,250 inmates beyond their release dates every year — not because they pose a threat to the public but because they cannot find a place to live that parole officers find suitable, according to court papers and interviews.
For Illinois taxpayers, the extended stays add as much as $25 million a year in prison costs, compared with the far lower tab for parole.
It’s a practice commonly known as “violating at the door” because guards at one time walked inmates who had completed their sentences to the prison gates, only to return them to their cells for failing to find a suitable home — considered a parole violation.
Now, according to prison officials, such dramatic “turnarounds” rarely if ever take place, yet hundreds of inmates continue to be held every year for months or even years beyond their release dates. They must be set free by the time their terms of parole end, sometimes as long as three years later.
This story was first reported by the Illinois Times on January 22nd. What makes this issue so difficult is that most of those inmates are sex offenders.
* From Patrick Yeagle’s IT piece…
Johnny Cordrey did his time.
He spent 18 years at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, but when his release date came in April 2012, Cordrey was instead sent back to prison. He hadn’t committed any new offense, however. His attorney says the only crime Cordrey committed this time around was being poor. […]
Cordrey, now 66, was sentenced in October 1993 to 36 years in prison for aggravated criminal sexual assault, plus a separate 30-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping. With credits for good conduct reducing his sentence, Cordrey was due for release in April 2012. The terms of his parole – called “mandatory supervised release” in Illinois – required him to register as a sex offender, attend three different types of counseling, have no contact with his victim, check in with his parole officer twice a week and wear an electronic tracking device at a suitable home.
As his release date approached, it became clear that Cordrey – who Poor says has no family or friends outside prison – wouldn’t be able to find a place to live during his parole. The Illinois Department of Corrections attempted to place Cordrey in transitional housing paid for by the state, but no facility could accept him, mainly because of his sex offender status. On April 12, 2012, instead of being released, Cordrey was informed he would stay in Menard Correctional Facility to serve his three-year parole term.
Cordrey sent a handwritten appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, asking the justices to free him on the legal theory that confining people past their prison terms violates the state and federal constitutions. If Cordrey had been a rich man, he reasoned, he could have easily obtained housing and would have been released sooner. Cordrey claimed keeping poor inmates confined longer creates a second-class status for them, in violation of the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. […]
Cordrey is currently being held in the Peoria County jail. After he served his additional three years of parole in prison, he was released and picked up by police in late October 2014 while walking on a highway near Peoria. Because Cordrey is homeless, he was deemed to have violated the terms of his sex offender registration, which means he will likely be sent back to prison.
The Supreme Court ruled against him.
On the one hand, this just doesn’t seem right, and it’s certainly costing the taxpayers plenty of money. On the other hand, convicted sex offenders are deemed by statute to be more of a danger than other criminals, and many of them probably are.