Prisoner early releases nearly cost Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn his job two years ago, so he stopped them. Now legislators have sent him a measure that once again would let some nonviolent inmates out before their sentences are finished, reports the Chicago Tribune. Republicans say it’s a Democratic attempt to provide Quinn with political cover, arguing the governor already has the power to launch an early-release program. If lawmakers set up the guidelines, Quinn could blame them if a freed inmate went on a crime spree, Republicans said. “If someone is released and they are causing a terrible crime which occurs, it’s easy to blame the legislature,” said Republican Rep. Jim Durkin, a former prosecutor. “To a certain extent, that could be viewed as passing the buck.” The Quinn administration is remaining mum on the bill.
Perhaps Quinn is still haunted by an early-release program that turned into a public relations disaster and dominated much of the 2010 governor’s race. Quinn was in the Democratic primary campaign in late 2009 when he began suspending early-release programs after hundreds of inmates were released following only a few weeks in prison. The MGT Push program sped up the rate that inmates could get out with early good-time credit, and 1,745 inmates got out an average of 36 days early. While some of those released had violent records, a third were serving time on drug possession. Since the early-release program was eliminated, Illinois’ prison population has risen. In January 2010, there were 45,750 inmates. The total topped 49,000 last October, and currently stands at 47,980. The system was built to hold 34,000 inmates.