The governor’s office announced last week that Illinois prisons are preparing to once again introduce an early-release program.
The new program will replace one that was shut down a few years ago after The Associated Press reported that nearly 2,000 participants in the program, some of whom were violent offenders, were serving only a few days or weeks behind prison walls.
The ending of the severely flawed program caused an immediate influx in the state prison population, forcing the system to house more than 49,000 inmates in prisons designed to hold only 33,000.
In the meantime, the governor’s office began a series of closures to state prisons, juvenile detention centers and halfway houses. I have said repeatedly that it makes no sense to shutter facilities when there is already a significant problem with overcrowding in our prisons, but that’s exactly what the governor did.
Now, to add insult to injury, the governor is re-enacting an early-release program in an attempt to combat the overcrowding issue – an issue that ending the last program created.
I still believe that it was the wrong decision to close a state-of-the-art prison like Tamms. It forced our correctional system to cram more inmates into other, already overcrowded, century-old prisons and let criminals go early. This policy seems more like a recipe for disaster.
Given the Quinn administration's disregard for the safety of employees and inmates through these reckless closures and the security concerns stemming from overcrowding and inadequate guard-to-inmate ratios, I am very worried that using this program as a Band-Aid to fix a much larger problem will do far more harm than good.