Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn reversed a secret policy Wednesday that allowed more than 1,700 inmates to be released from state prison early, some of whom have already been sent back for new offenses, including aggravated battery, weapons charges and assault.
The inmates were set free after an unannounced change in prison practice – revealed in an Associated Press report earlier this month – that Quinn now calls a “big mistake.” He blamed his Corrections director, Michael Randle, but did not fire him.
The AP obtained and analyzed information that showed about 850 inmates were let out weeks early beginning in September. Corrections stopped requiring them to serve at least 61 days and gave them up to six months’ good-conduct credit, or “meritorious good time,” immediately upon entering the lockup, before they had a chance to display any kind of behavior.
That meant they spent as little as three weeks behind bars – including county jail – and averaged 16 days in the state pen under the plan called “MGT Push.” They included violent offenders who committed such crimes as battery, weapons charges and aggravated drunken driving.
Under certain provisions of Wisconsin Act 28, inmates convicted of some violent felonies are eligible for early release from prison, regardless of their behavior in prison or whether or not they’ve completed any programming while they’ve been incarcerated, creating a nightmare scenario under which felons who really shouldn’t be released early are sent back onto the streets. While I certainly understand the idea that there are some inmates in Wisconsin’s state prison system who may be suitable candidates for early release, I’m of the belief that anyone convicted of a violent felony should not be eligible for early release.
* The views expressed in this entry belong to the author and the author alone, and in no way represent the views of anyone else within the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.