Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn plans to release 1,000 inmates from prisons in the next several months in an effort to save money, reports the Chicago Tribune. Only “low-level, non-violent” offenders in the last year of their sentence will qualify for release and will be fitted with electronic monitoring devices. Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith said most of those to be released and placed on supervised parole will be drug and property crime offenders. Smith said inmates who have been convicted of murder, sex crimes, domestic violence, or who have active orders of protection against them do not qualify for release.
Releasing prisoners is estimated to save about $5 million a year, Smith said, though Quinn also is giving the prison agency an extra $2 million to monitor those who are let out. Each will be assigned a parole officer and provided drug treatment and other rehabilitative programs. The releases is another symptom of the state’s dire financial situation and is coupled with Quinn’s plan to lay off about 1,000 prison workers. Prison reform advocates said releasing non-violent offenders close to the end of their sentences will free up resources to allow a focus on rehabilitative programming for those with longer sentences and reduce the rate of inmates who often return to custody. “We should be using tax dollars wisely to be locking people up who present a physical threat to the community,” said Hanke Gratteau of the John Howard Association. “But to just lock people up to punish them without programming doesn’t make any sense.”