CHICAGO - Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Director Michael P. Randle today announced a comprehensive crime reduction package that will continue Governor Pat Quinn’s prison reform efforts. The Governor is providing an additional $4 million to IDOC, which will oversee the implementation of these smarter, tougher prevention and enforcement measures.
“The Governor’s support has provided the state with the tools it needs to embark on these far reaching criminal justice reform initiatives,” Director Randle said. “This will lead to the development of new tools throughout the state’s entire justice system that will ensure all law enforcement can better target resources, more effectively reduce crime and strengthen communities. At the same time, it will help us to manage safer, more efficient prisons.”
“Director Randle’s primary focus is protecting the public while also modernizing and improving the state’s correctional system,” Governor Quinn said. “These new approaches will help accomplish that important goal.”
The focus on reform is the result of the state’s rising prison population and its drain on limited resources. IDOC attributes the increase, from 18,000 in fiscal year 1986 to nearly 46,000 in fiscal year 2009, to higher incarceration rates of low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Experts question whether the state’s investment of $3 billion in taxpayer dollars to build, operate and maintain new prison space was effective in reducing crime and cite research studies that indicate those dollars may have been more successfully invested in drug treatment and other community-based alternatives.
One aspect of the reform package, the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, will reduce the number of offenders sent to IDOC by creating a new program to help divert adults from the state prison system and focus on more effective crime reduction methods. Two million dollars will be used to encourage counties to use community-based programs for those non-violent offenders who would have otherwise received a short-term prison sentence.
The Act also calls for the implementation of an automated integrated system to link courts, probation, prison and parole. Such a link will help formulate an offender’s reentry plan and reduce recidivism. It will identify resources and services needed, such as substance abuse programming and job placement, as well as other factors, including education level, skills, attitude and relationships that can affect the outcomes related to the reentry process.
Under the second aspect of the reform package, $2 million will be designated for the implementation of mandatory supervised electronic detention. Approximately 1,000 low-level, non-violent offenders will be assigned a parole agent and will be required to adhere to strict guidelines for the remainder of their sentence. Though this program is defined under current state statute, it will be implemented with stricter eligibility requirements, including automatic prohibitions against sex offenders and violent offenders.
On average, 47 percent of offenders released from custody each year serve six month or less in the state prison system and 69 percent of all inmates are in prison for non-violent crimes. Mandatory supervised electronic detention is designed to reduce the strain this population imposes on the prison system and allow resources to be better targeted toward higher risk offenders within IDOC.
“In our extensive history working with the justice system, we have found that alternatives to incarceration are far more effective ways to reduce crime for the vast majority of non-violent, short-term drug-involved offenders,” explained Pamela F. Rodriguez, President, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).