IL Prisons Overflowing After Halt Of Release Program


The Illinois prison system is bursting at the seams with a record high of nearly 49,000 inmates, some 3,000 more than just a year ago, says the Chicago Tribune. The surge, combined with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget crisis, has led to conditions that watchdog groups and veteran correctional officers say they haven’t seen since a population crisis in the 1980s prompted the state to build three new prisons.
Confronted with putting more offenders in the same amount of space, administrators are doubling up every available cell. As many as four inmates are bunked in slightly larger cells intended for two handicapped prisoners. At an intake facility, incoming inmates regularly sleep on cots in a gymnasium or prison hospital. With the Illinois Department of Corrections about $95 million behind on its bills, many prison vendors haven’t been paid for months. The reason for the rising numbers of inmates has nothing to do with more offenders entering the system. It has to do with fewer getting out as the result of a backlash against a policy change by Gov. Pat Quinn that allowed the earlier than usual release of about 1,700 inmates over four months. Under fire by an opponent in a heated primary fight, Quinn suspended the controversial program, called Meritorious Good Time Push, after news reports that some prisoners sentenced to short terms of incarceration were freed after as little as a few days in state prison.

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