Repeat drunk drivers, drug users and people convicted of battery and weapons violations are serving under three weeks in state custody under what the Associated Press calls “a secret change in policy by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s prison system.” Since September more than 850 inmates have been released weeks earlier than they ordinarily would be. The state is saving money by abandoning a policy that requires inmates to serve at least 61 days and awarding them discretionary good-conduct credit immediately upon entering prison. That means some prisoners have enough good-conduct days to qualify for release almost immediately — before they’ve had a chance to demonstrate any conduct at all, good or bad. The inmates are kept at the department’s prison processing centers and released after as few as 11 days.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett, whose office has convicted 22 people who have been released early since September, called the practice “outragous,” saying that “good-conduct credits are intended to be awarded to those people who demonstrate through their behavior that they merit those credits.” The practice is called “MGT Push,” for “meritorious good time.” Quinn spokesman Bob Reed denied that any prisoners are being released early. He did not address the department eliminating its requirement that everyone serve at least 61 days or that good-time credit is awarded under a section in state law entitled “early release.”