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State prepares for new early release program

Tue, 25 Dec 2012 15:37:33 CST
By: IPR's Brian Mackey

Governor Pat Quinn signed a law this summer meant to ease massive overcrowding in Illinois' prisons. Six months later, the prison population remains around its record-breaking high. But the new early release program could be ready early next year. IPR's Brian Mackey reports.


Illinois prisons were rated to hold 34,000 inmates. But there are currently more than 49,000. In some facilities, that means men have been sleeping in gymnasiums and pushing bathrooms beyond their limits. That's one of the reasons Senator Kwame Raoul passed legislation to create a new early-release program for certain non-violent offenders.
Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, says he understands it'll take time to get the program up and running.

"This bill was not a magic wand. It's a tool, but it's a tool that does give discretion. It doesn't say, 'Let out a bunch of people.'"

There hasn't been an early release program since 2009, when Quinn canceled it amid controversy over how little time some inmates were spending in prison. That's why the new program has more strict requirements. For example, prison officials have to consider factors about inmates' past, and possible future, criminal activity. Rules to govern the program have been submitted for approval to a legislative committee, and will likely be acted upon in 2013.


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