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Northwestern Program for Prison Reentry Strategies Illinois Early Release Report 2010

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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
THE TRUTH ABOUT “EARLY RELEASE” FROM ILLINOIS PRISONS
EMBARGOED to MIDNIGHT October 27, 2010
RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2010

Malcolm C. Young
Director, Program for Prison Reentry Strategies
Bluhm Legal Clinic – Northwestern University School of Law

27 October 2010

This report was written by Malcolm C. Young, Attorney at Law and Director, Program for Prison Reentry
Strategies, Bluhm Legal Clinic – Northwestern University School of Law; former executive director of
the John Howard Association of Illinois; founder and former executive director of The Sentencing
Project, Washington, D. C. and currently a Member of the Illinois Adult Corrections Advisory Board.
Many individuals contributed to the research and preparation of this report, but the observations,
conclusions, findings and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author.
Support for publication of this report was provided by the Bluhm Legal Clinic of the Northwestern
University School of Law. The Bluhm Legal Clinic trains law students to be skilled, ethical and reformminded professional. In addition to learning lawyering skills such as interviewing, counseling and
negotiation, writing, and appellate and trial advocacy, students are encouraged to scrutinize the quality of
justice. Work done by Bluhm Legal Clinic students, faculty and staff often contributes to reform
initiatives arising from representation of individuals and groups.
The author wishes to acknowledge assistance provided with legal research by Northwestern Law Student
Shilpa Avasare.

For further information, contact:
Bluhm Legal Clinic Northwestern University School of Law
357 E. Chicago Avenue – 8th floor
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Phone: 312-503-8576
www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic

Copyright @ 2010 Northwestern Law . Reproduction of this document in full or in part in print or in
electronic format only by permission of the author or Northwestern Law. Portions may be reproduced
with attribution for purposes of review or comment.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

1

I.

MGT and MGT-Push

2

Background

2

The details of MGT and MGT-Push

3

The Controversy

6

Headline: “Murder suspect out of Illinois Prison after 40 days”

8

II.
III.

The High Road Not Taken: Illinois Struggles to Produce its own “Willie Horton”

10

IV.

Recap: What Exactly were the Failures of the “Secret” “Early Release Plan”?

14

Undeserving prisoners were awarded “good time” credits?

14

The Department of Corrections released hundreds of violent offenders
who should not have been released?

15

The Program was “Secret”?

16

Putting Illinois Citizens at Risk

17

Claims that MGT-Push endangered the public by advancing release dates
were misplaced and unfounded

17

Why automatically withholding MGT awards from all new prisoners
for 60 days may put the public at greater risk

18

Illinois‟ own history refutes the claim that good time credit programs
increase crime

19

Comparisons among other states continue to show that
reducing prison incarceration can accompany reductions in crime rates

19

Conclusion

23

V.

VI.

Appendix: Crime and Incarceration Rates and Prison Populations
for Six States in Selected Years

24

End Notes

26

Figures:
Figure. 1: Change in Prison Incarceration and Crime Rates
in Three States 1995 - 2008

20

Figure 2: Change in Incarceration and Crime - Four States Over Time Period
(ending 2008) Profiled in "Downscaling Prisons"

22

Figure 3: Illinois Prison Population 31 Dec 2008 - 30 Sep 2010

23

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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
THE TRUTH ABOUT “EARLY RELEASE” FROM ILLINOIS PRISONS
Malcolm C. Young
Director, Program for Prison Reentry Strategies
Bluhm Legal Clinic – Northwestern University School of Law
28 October 2010

EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDNIGHT TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 2010
RELEASE DATE THURSDAY 28 OCTOBER 2010
INTRODUCTION

Over the past year, Illinois citizens have read and heard troubling stories about a program
providing men and women “early release” from state prisons. Reporters and commentators have
written sensational accounts of a “secret” program by which the Department of Corrections
“shaved” the sentences of dangerous and violent prisoners. Candidates for offices have ether
attacked the program – called MGT (Meritorious Good Time) and MGT-Push -- or disowned it.
Nearly all of the charges against the program are false.
Contrary to media reports, MGT-Push has not been responsible for a single illegal or premature
release of dangerous criminals or for the commission of additional violent crime. MGT-Push did
not cut prison sentences by months or years. It did not add to the public risk or endanger public
safety. And it was not “secret.”
But the controversy over MGT-Push has had harmful effects. It has resulted in ill-advised
legislative and Administration decisions including some that may actually increase risks to
public safety. In addition, the MGT controversy and the decisions it spawned have resulted in a
sharp and sudden increase in the prison population that will overburden corrections and cost the
state millions.
The purpose of this report is simply to set the record straight concerning MGT. Subsequent
reports will consider the impact of decisions curtailing MGT on the future of corrections in
Illinois.

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PAGE 2

I. MGT AND MGT-PUSH
Background
In June 2009, Michael Randle accepted Governor Pat Quinn‟s appointment as Director of
Illinois‟ Department of Corrections. A native of Illinois, Randle had worked in the Ohio
Department of Corrections under the leadership of its innovative and highly respected chief
Reginald Wilkerson. Randle was one of few out-of-state professionals appointed to direct
Illinois‟ Department of Corrections. Within months of his appointment he introduced MGT-Push
as a relatively minor modification to the long-standing “good time” credit program intended to
help ease a problem that had bedeviled Illinois corrections for years: the very large portion of
the nearly 37,000 Illinois prisoners released each year who served only weeks or one or two
months in state prison before being released.
Called “short termers,” these prisoners placed a disproportionate burden on the Department. The
Department devotes time and resources to assess, test, and diagnose each new prisoner‟s
medical, mental, behavioral and physical condition prior to assigning him or her to an
appropriate prison facility. For each of thousands of prisoner who are released within just weeks
of arrival each year, this effort serves little purpose. Even if a short term prisoner is diagnosed
with mental or physical illness or is found to have special educational or treatment needs, he or
she will be released well before reaching the end of long waiting lists for programs intended to
address those needs.
Even before Randle‟s arrival in June 2009, Illinois policymakers had been considering ways to
reduce the number of short-term prisoners.1 The Illinois legislature expressly endorsed the
concept of keeping a significant portion of this group out of prison altogether by passing the
Crime Reduction Act of 2009 (hereafter, “CRA”).2 The CRA established Redeploy Illinois, a
program for adult offenders patterned after one Illinois had put in place for juveniles that
provides incentives to counties to provide local services and assistance to felony offenders in lieu
of sentencing them to state prison for short terms.3 In tandem, the Illinois legislature established
the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, or “SPAC,” a non-partisan panel of stakeholders
charged with reviewing sentencing policies and practices and their cost and impact.4 SPAC is
Illinois‟ equivalent of a sentencing commission. Lastly, the CRA included provisions creating a
Risk, Assets and Needs Assessment Task Force (“RANA”) which is to design an assessment
instrument that judges and corrections officials will use to determine who should be sentenced to
or retained in prison.
Randle‟s focus on short term prisoners therefore appeared in synch with concepts to which the
Illinois legislature had committed itself with the passage of the CRA.
Randle‟s plans to utilize good time credits to address the problem of short term prisoners and cut
costs was were conceptually on solid ground. Nationally, corrections professional value “good
time credit” programs which permit them to reduce time served for well behaved prisoners.5
Nearly all of the nation‟s leading corrections chiefs and many state legislatures have
recommended that early release programs be opened including to some prisoners convicted of
violent offenses.6

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Other states have successfully deployed “merit good time” programs to sharply reduce prison
populations. For example, Mississippi‟s legislature approved large scale retroactive increases in
“meritorious earned time” and reinstatement of parole eligibility in order to release some 3,100
prisoners before the end of 2009. By implementing their “early release” and parole program,
Mississippi officials expected to avoid building and operating some 5,000 prison beds over the
next ten years.7 They also provided the cover story for Governing magazine bearing the sub-title,
“How America‟s reddest state – and most notorious prison – became a model of corrections
reform.”8
In Illinois the systems of awarding credit to prisoners for “good time” long predated Director
Randle or the current administration. MGT was created over 30 years ago during the
administration of Illinois‟ iconic Republican Governor James Thompson. Under Thompson‟s
administration it resulted in the release of many more prisoners longer in advance of their
scheduled release dates then did MGT-Push and then did MGT as it operated in 2009. The
Thompson Administration‟s MGT credit program was created for the express purpose of
reducing overcrowding in state prisons. This history is relevant to today.
In 1977 Illinois legislators replaced an indeterminate sentencing structure with the state‟s current
determinate sentencing system. As part of the effort to insure that convicted defendants served
the time provided in the sentencing code, legislators attempted to limit to 90 days the amount of
“good time” credits the Director of Corrections could award.9 When the new sentencing code
drove prison populations over capacity, Michael Lane, Governor Thompson‟s Director of the
Department of Corrections, construed the new law to allow him to award MGT to prisoners in
multiple 90 day increments, reducing time served by as much as 313 days.10 Over the course of
three years Lane approved awards of MGT to some 21,000 prisoners, reducing the overall prison
population by approximately 2,500.11
Several States Attorneys challenged in local courts the amount of “good time” Lane was
awarding offenders. Their cases were consolidated in the Illinois Supreme Court. There, Lane
argued that the awards of additional good time credits were necessary to meet the threat of
dangerous and unconstitutional overcrowding. The Supreme Court rejected Lane‟s interpretation
of the law in 1983.12
But as the prosecution of drug law violations drove the prison population ever higher, Illinois
was again forced to confront record-breaking increases in incarceration in 1989 and 1990.13 At
the Thompson administration‟s request, in 1990 the legislature revised the law to allow good
time credits of up to 180 days14 for the express purpose of controlling the size of the prison
population.15 MGT has operated much the same way ever since. In the 19 years between 1992
and 2009, the average amount of MGT and other “good time” credited released prisoners
exceeded 115 days. In 15 of those 19 years the average good time credit for released prisoners
eligible for credits exceeded 140 days.16

The details of MGT and MGT-Push
Illinois‟s Corrections department has no control over how many persons are sentenced to prison,
the length of their sentences, and the amount of time the prisoners must serve in a local jail

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waiting for trial or the conclusion of plea negotiations. Even sentencing judges are constrained
in their ability to manage the amount of time a particular defendant may end up in prison. Trial
prosecutors and defense counsel jockey their cases to reach plea agreements that are acceptable
to defendants, including sentences that minimize prison time in favor of time served at the local
jail near family and friends, all the while working under the pressure of overbearing caseloads.17
When a prisoner is released and then returned to prison following a violation of the conditions of
his or her release, a quasi-independent Prisoner Review Board determines the new length of stay
for the prisoner unless a criminal court imposes a new sentence for a new offense.
The bottom line is that the only direct control the Department of Corrections has over the length
of time a prisoner serves in prison comes from MGT or one of the other, more significant timereduction programs. For example, sentences imposed in court on all but murder, some sex
offenses and a few other serious crimes are typically reduced in half by “statutory” or “day-forday” good time. This credit is awarded up front and in advance of time being served. It can be
taken away as a disciplinary measure, but seldom is.
Prisoners can also earn good time credits for their participation in educational programs,
treatment and vocational programs and completion of a GED.18 These are important but
quantitatively less significant credits than MGT. 19
Credit for MGT is awarded to prisoners up to three years in advance of their release dates.
Accordingly, prisoners with less than three years to serve – as noted above a very large number - are awarded good time credits in advance and up front, soon after they are admitted to the
Department of Corrections.
This means that a prisoner arriving at the Department after being sentenced in a county court and
in most cases having served time in a county jail is credited with MGT as soon as Corrections
staff obtains paperwork and apply legislatively determined criteria and Departmental regulations.
The process may take only days or a couple of weeks to complete. By custom, though, the
Department of Corrections would not award any prisoner good time credits until that prisoner
had served at least 60 days in the IDOC. Only prisoners whose release dates fell within the 60
day period even without credit for good time were released before the end of the 60 day period.
For example, then, an eligible defendant sentenced to three years in court will be credited with
half that time, or 18 months, of statutory or “day-for-day” good time. A prisoner sentenced to
one year will be credited with six months and serve six months.
A prisoner with six months left to serve on his or her sentence at the time he or she is admitted to
the Department of Corrections and legally eligible for MGT could be awarded up to 180 days of
good time and released from prison as soon after his or her arrival as he or she can be put
through a required pre-release briefing.
Except, of course, that the Department delayed the award of good time credits 60 days.
For prisoners with court-ordered sentences in the 1-3 year range and who are the beneficiaries of
statutory or “day for day” good time credits MGT could reduce prison time to a matter of

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PAGE 5

months. For example, MGT credit could reduce by up to 180 days the 18 months to be served on
a court-ordered three year sentence. MGT could reduce the six months to be served by a prisoner
with a court –ordered sentence of one year to, basically, no time to be served except the 60 days
during which the Department delayed the award of good time credits for all new prisoners.
Even for prisoners with court-ordered sentences considerably longer than 1-3 years MGT
combined with other credits could still reduce to a matter of days or weeks the time they would
spend in state prison. This is because many defendants serve months or even years in county
jails waiting for trial or to work out a guilty plea. Jail time is credited to prison time. So, a
defendant who served 15 months in a county jail before being sentenced to four years would
arrive at the Department of Corrections with nine months left to serve. MGT could reduce those
nine months by 180 days, or to three months.
MGT-Push, Randle‟s modification to MGT, put an end to the Department‟s longstanding custom
of withholding the award of MGT until a newly admitted prisoner had served at least 60 days in
prison.20 Under MGT-Push, the criteria according to which MGT was awarded did not change.
Prisoners still had to be vetted, processed and undergo a program designed to take 15 days to
complete. The time taken by these activities and the fact that many prisoners were accepted into
the program while they were already into the 60 day period were two reasons that MGT was
actually responsible for reducing time to be served by, on average, 37 days.
The facts are, then, that in implementing MGT-Push, Randle at most marginally changed the
“good time” equations that had been in place since the legislature approved up to 180 days
credit at the behest of the Thompson administration in 1990. The amount of time by which
short term prisoners’ time to serve was reduced by MGT-Push amounted to less than 2% of
the time the overall MGT program reduced prison terms for the 24,172 prisoners who received
on average 135 days’ credit in FY 2009.
With these facts in plain view, one might have thought that a reporter looking for a story would
not have found it in MGT-Push. The real story – if there was one -- was that sentencing judges,
prosecutors, attorneys negotiating guilty pleas, and the legislature set penalties, negotiated guilty
pleas, and imposed sentences knowing full well the impact of Illinois‟ various good time credit
programs which since 1990 awarded up to 180 days of MGT for the purpose of managing the
size of the prison population.
But someone in the news media found a story in MGT-Push.

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II. THE CONTROVERSY
The Department of Corrections implemented MGT-Push in September 2009.
By December 2009 a media firestorm was in full force.
Associated Press Reporter John O‟Conner wrote the first story, highlighting three prisoners
released through MGT-Push who had served 13, 17 and 18 days for an accident- and injuryproducing DUI, carrying a .25 caliber hand gun while on probation, and possession of a small
bag of cocaine. An editor assigned a headline that, though twice false, framed the public debate
for months to come: “Illinois prisons shave terms, secretly release inmates.” 21
But it was not the “Illinois prisons” that “shaved” terms.
Each of the three persons O‟Conner named entered a plea to a criminal charge or of having
violated probation at a bond court hearing held within a day of his arrest or at a preliminary
hearing held with two or three days. In Cook County the courtrooms in which these court
hearings are held are fast moving. The attorneys in these courts work without any police reports
save the arresting officer‟s brief account, and defense attorneys -- frequently in-experienced -seldom talk more than a few minutes to their clients, and then in a crowded lock up. In a matter
of minutes, a lot of wheeling and dealing goes on supported by an absolute minimum of
information.22 The prosecutor holds the cards, and unless the prosecutor decides to settle the case
with the defense attorney in the few minutes of negotiation available to them, it will be continued
to a later date in another courtroom where it can be considered in more depth. But the hearings
in those subsequent court hearings come at least ten days and sometimes several weeks, after the
first or preliminary hearing.
From the short length of time these defendants served in the Cook County jail, O‟Conner – an
experience courtroom hand -- should have known that each pleaded guilty at one of the first
court hearings. And because each negotiated sentence was for one year, O‟Conner should also
have known (or could easily have found out) that each defendant was certain to spend almost no
time in state custody.
What was true for each offender named in O‟Conner‟s article, and what O‟Conner neglected to
state, was that the short-term sentence and date of release for each of the defendants he described
was the result of a plea bargain approved by a trial court prosecutor and agreed to by the defense
and the judge in the same courtroom. These were decisions over which the Department of
Corrections had no influence what so ever.
What was also true for each of the three defendants, and which O‟Conner incorrectly stated, was
that the Department didn‟t “shave” time off the sentences imposed in court. Under Illinois
sentencing law, these three inmates‟ sentences had essentially been completed by the time they
arrived at the Department of Corrections. What the MGT-Push program did was simply reduce
the 60 day delay in awarding MGT credits. The amount of time saved by MGT-Push in these
three cases was 39, 42 and 43 days. These amounts of time were minor compared to the 50%
reduction effected by “day-for-day” or “statutory” good time.

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These shortened sentences may be unfamiliar to members of the public or legislators not familiar
with criminal court proceedings in Illinois, but they are well known by prosecutors, defense
attorneys, judges, police and others embedded in the criminal justice system. Sentences
shortened by day-for-day and good time credits are incentives used to induce defendants to plead
guilty in cases prosecutors deem less serious or in which the evidence is weak. They are the
grease on which cases slide expeditiously through a court system that is every bit as crowded as
are Illinois jails and prisons. Yet despite their own daily reliance upon a legislatively-approved
scheme which turns a year or an eighteen month sentence into almost no time and two year
sentence into six months‟ incarceration, prosecutors cited by O‟Connor alleged that the few extra
days by which MGT-Push reduced time in prison “could threaten public safety or increase
crime.”23
O‟Conner‟s story caught on, carried by many state newspapers and picked up from the
Associated Press by out of state media
Not every reporter or columnists blamed the Department of Corrections for short sentences.
The Chicago Tribune‟s Eric Zorn joined with many others who reacted to the “early release” of
Derrick King 18 days after he arrived at the Department of Corrections convicted of a brutal
attack that resulted in 85 stitches, 18 teeth lost, and permanent injury and disfigurement to a
woman unable to provide King the cigarettes he asked for. Zorn, as angry as others about King‟s
release, decried the State‟s Attorney‟s decision not to prosecute King for attempt murder and to
accept a plea to a three year prison term which in conjunction with statutory and meritorious
good time would mandate his release in 18 months. Zorn also correctly noted that King served
13 months in the Cook County jail before being transferred to the Department of Corrections24
But few in the news media reported the facts as accurately as had Zorn. News coverage that
followed O‟Conner‟s AP story focused on allegations of misconduct and crimes allegedly
committed by prisoners released “early” and of violent criminals sent home “for the holidays.”
There were widespread claims that prisoners released through the MGT-Push program were
committing crimes or violating conditions of parole in huge numbers,25 something that might
have been expected in a state in which the recidivism rate for all prisoners exceeded 50%.26
News reports targeted the “most high-profile” of the offenders released through MGT-Push. In
so doing they understated the amount of time prisoners who were released under the MGT-Push
program actually served in custody, ignored time prisoners served in county jails waiting for
trial, and incorrectly assigned responsibility for decisions made by governing law, prosecutors
and sentencing courts that determine the amount of time offenders serve and whether they were
to serve it in jail or prison to the Department of Corrections. (See, “Murder suspect out of
Illinois Prison after 40 days,” on following page).
In response to the unrelenting political attacks on Governor Quinn in the run-up to the
Democratic primary, the Governor ordered MGT-Push “terminated” on December 30, 2009.
Also under pressure, Governor Quinn appointed a committee to review MGT and MGT-Push.
The Committee, chaired by David Erickson, a former judge with no apparent corrections
experience, informally provided the Governor its opinion about failings and deficiencies in the

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Headline: “Murder suspect out of Illinois Prison
after 40 days” 30

before he was finally arrested on June 29, 2007 for the
Halloween 1990 murder.

Reporter Matt Hanley‟s story in the Aurora Beacon
News was up on the Illinois Republican Party‟s
website, We Are Illinois.org on January 6, 2010.

Uncomfortable though they might have been in
cutting him a deal, the prosecutors must have needed
Rodriguez‟s testimony. Their case was hardly air
tight. In a bench trial, the judge acquitted the father
but convicted the son, whose fingerprints were on the
murder weapon. Rodriquez fulfilled his side of the
deal. According to news reports, his was the
“strongest testimony yet” in a trial held 18 years after
the shooting. As both father and son had been
convicted in another of the “cold case” murders, both
went to prison, the son on a mandatory life sentence.

Its subject, Michael Rodriquez, is described in the
article as, “among the most high-profile of the more
than 1,700 inmates who were released as part of
„MGT-Push‟” …
The article characterizes Kane County prosecutors as
being “uncomfortable” cutting a deal for 5 ½ years on
a plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in
exchange for Rodriguez‟s testimony against “fellow
gang members” who fired the fatal bullets in a
Halloween 1990 attack on a rival.
Rodriguez‟s history was “sprinkled with other violent
offenses” for which he served prison time: aggravated
robbery, aggravated battery with a firearm and
residential burglary.
Based on the story, Rich Miller of Capital Fax called
for a “legislative investigation, with subpoena power,
of this early release program. “Literally giving
convicted attempted murderers a Get Out of Jail Free
card is beyond the pale…” *
But a closer look indicates that Rodriquez was
released only 20 days sooner than he would have been
had there been no MGT Push. More completely
presented, Rodriguez‟ story, like many of the MGTPush cases cited by news media and political
partisans, is greyer than it is black or white.
Rodriguez was 18 days past his 17th birthday when in
1990 he participated in a deadly firearms attack at an
Aurora residence. The two other defendants were the
leader of the Latin Kings street gang apparently bent
on assassinating a rival, and his son. They almost got
away with it. No arrests were made until a three-year
FBI-Aurora Police “Cold Case” Task Force broke the
case, along with 20 other homicides, in June 2007.
One year after this unsolved murder, at age 18,
Rodriguez was convicted of a class 4 criminal damage
to property and sentenced to two years. At age 28 he
was sentenced to 10 years for a residential burglary
and aggravated robbery, a sentence he completed

Procedurally and in terms of the kinds of judgment
calls trial prosecutors have to make, Rodriguez‟ case
was not unusual. He spent 30 months in the local jail
while prosecutors negotiated his “deal” and waiting to
testify. He entered the IDOC on 30 October 2009, the
854th day of a negotiated sentence. On 9 December
2009 Rodriguez was released, only 20 days in advance
of the end of the 61 day period for which he would
have been granted MGT sentence credit. His release
also came 110 days in advance of March 28, 2010,
which would have been his 1004th day in custody and
the last date on which the Department could legally
hold Rodriguez under any circumstances absent
disciplinary actions.
The bottom line for the Department of Corrections
was this: after being held in Kane County for nearly
30 months and coming to the IDOC on a plea
approved by prosecutors for apparent good reason,
Rodriguez had at most about three months during
which IDOC might change his life. Tools as well as
time were lacking: the waiting time for most programs
exceeds three months. He met MGT-Push‟s
requirements and was released.
Rodriguez appears to have joined those who were
returned to prison after release under MGT-Push, but
not for a new crime. As of August 10, 2010 Rodriguez
was incarcerated at Shawnee Correctional Center
having been twice detained for violating rules of his
release including failing to live in an approved
residence.

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overall MGT program and recommended MGT-Push be terminated. Of much greater import,
however, the Committee also recommended that the overall MGT program be suspended until
revised.27 Governor Quinn acted on this recommendation in December 2009, at which time the
Committee had not released its report.28 Significantly as it turned out, there no review or
assessment of the soundness or the accuracy of the Committee‟s work prior
to Governor Quinn acting on the Committee‟s informal recommendations.
Although the Governor had terminated MGT-Push, the legislature took it upon itself to pass in
record time legislation reinstating by law, as opposed to “custom” or administrative rule, the 60
day delay in awarding good time credits. The new law also added a 14 day period during which
local law enforcement was to be notified about a proposed release. Governor Quinn signed the
bill into law on January 14, 2010, effective the following day.29
Neither the Governor‟s nor the legislature‟s actions ended the controversy over MGT-Push. It
served too many interests too well to be allowed to die. 30

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III. THE HIGH ROAD NOT TAKEN: ILLINOIS STRUGGLES
HORTON”

TO

PRODUCE

ITS OWN

PAGE 10

“WILLIE

The critical, angry news reports and commentary continued into the New Year. But there were
also supportive statements from, almost alone, the Chicago Sun-Times.31
Governor Quinn won the Democratic primary. His opponent in the general election continued the
political attacks on the Quinn administrations “secret” “early release” programs.
In the summer of 2010 Republicans in the state legislature called for an investigation of the
“secret” early release program. Claiming that the Democratic leadership refused to hold hearings
or provide information, Republicans formed a panel and scheduled public forums on MGT-Push.
They selected Peoria, Illinois for the first hearing because it was the location of a brutal murder
allegedly committed in May 2010 by a former prisoner named Edjuan L Payne who had been
released from prison in September 2009 through the MGT-Push program.32
At the forum elected officials, victim‟s groups, prosecutors and members of the public spoke
against the “early release” program. Alan Mills, lead plaintiff‟s attorney in litigation over
conditions at Tamms Supermax Prison and highly knowledgeable on corrections issues, stated
the case in support of MGT and MGT-Push succinctly:
Under MGT-Push, no prisoner was released “early.” To the contrary, the Director
just started following the law as written. The real problem at the Department of
Corrections is overcrowding. The state needs to come to grips with this issue and
figure out what to do about it.33
In addition, Mills offered a salient point about the level of the public debate to date. As
he put it, the practice among the media and politicians of sensationalizing every case in
which a released prisoner commits another crime “kills the chance of having a serious
discussion if the standard by which any change in policy is that no one released ever
commits another crime.”
The accusations which flew between the Quinn administration, opposing politicians, the IDOC,
and the Prisoner Review Board as to who was responsible for Edjuan L Payne‟s release seemed
to have proven Mill‟s point. As it developed, and contrary to impressions created in the media,
Payne‟s being out of prison at the time of the murder had no direct connection to MGT-Push. 34
There was no evidence of impropriety or irregularity in either release decision. The murder was
a terrible tragedy. But it was a tragedy that could not fairly be attributed to the decision to release
Payne under MGT-Push or after serving two months for a minor violation of the conditions of
mandatory supervised release.
On or about July 27, 2010 Jorge Montes, longstanding Chair of the Prisoner Review Board
resigned. Montes, who enjoyed a national and state-wide reputation for professionalism and
balance, sometimes the target of Illinois organizations who opposed release of any of the
dwindling number of prisoners eligible for parole, was reported to have been a casualty of the
controversy over the Payne case.35

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On Friday, August 13, 2010, the Administration publicly released the Report on the Meritorious
Good Time and MGT Push Programs prepared by the Committee chaired by David Erickson.
(Hereafter cited as, “Erickson Committee Report”) at a press conference in state offices at the
Thompson Center in Chicago.
At the same press conference the Department of Corrections announced the release of a second
report, Meritorious Good Time Program Findings and Recommendations, prepared by members
of a departmental Operations Committee with the pro bono assistance from the consulting firm
Ernst & Young. (Hereafter cited as “Operations Committee Report”)
Almost without exception, news media and editorialists accepted the Erickson Committee‟s
bottom line and eminently quotable finding: “The MGT Push program was a mistake.” 36 Almost
no one noted that while generous in its criticisms, the Erickson report failed to report a single
case in which an inmate released under MGT-Push was a) released contrary to law; or b)
caused harm or injury to another person during the days in which the prisoner was in the
community due to MGT-Push.37
Governor Quinn‟s opponent in the fall elections and other Republicans charged the Governor
with “failure” for not firing Director Randle.
The exception among news media was the Chicago Sun-Times. On the morning of August 25,
2010 it published an op-ed in which Stephen F. Eisenman, a professor at Northwestern and
knowledgeable prison activist, factually contested many of the Erickson Committee‟s assertions.
In essence, Eisenman wrote:
1) Nobody was "released early;" all prisoners served terms mandated by law or
determined by judges and state's attorneys.
2) The scheduled release of prisoners under MGT-push was not a secret but was
publicly announced by Randle at a press conference in September 2009, and the
names of the released convicts were on an Illinois Department of Corrections
website.
3) MGT-push did not endanger the public; the average sentence reduction was
just 36 days, and there is no reason to think that an extra month of prison would
have reduced recidivism rates.
4) Most states have some version of MGT or MGT-push.
5) The Republican bill to restrict MGT has already increased the state's prison
population by more than 2,500 at a cost of more than $64 million per year.38
No one on the panel of legislators who spoke at the second Republican forum held later in the
day responded to Eisenman‟s fact-based counter-claims. Instead, the hearings opened with one of
the more gruesome television pieces that followed the Derrick King case, showing the victim‟s
shaved, stitched and swollen head, despite the fact that the case had little or nothing to do with
MGT or MGT-Push and everything to do with the plea deal reached in a Cook County court.

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David Erickson being apparently unable to attend, a staff person read his Committee‟s bottomline conclusions to the panel members.39
Members of the “panel” repeatedly decried the Governor‟s failure to fire Director Randle
although the panel itself never issued any findings or formal recommendations alleging specific
wrongdoing.
On September 2, 2010, IDOC Director Randle resigned his position effective 17 September
2010. Governor Quinn told news media he had not pressured his Director to leave. Prisoner
advocates decried Randle‟s departure. Quinn‟s opponent asserted Quinn should have fired
Randle long before as the “top official responsible for one of Illinois‟ worst public safety
failures.”40
Again the Chicago Sun-Times broke from the pack chasing the story of “early release.”
Weighing the state‟s financial interest in curbing the Department of Correction‟s budget and the
political risks of implementing reforms, the paper‟s editorial board announced that, “we really do
have an early release scandal in the Illinois‟ prison system . . . . the early departure of state
Corrections Director Michael Randle.41
No other major media came to Randle or the administration‟s defense over MGT-Push.42 For that
matter, there was a fair degree of silence from Democratic politicians as well. Also not heard
from were the various criminal justice commissions, committees, bar associations and
professional groups that figured in Illinois crime policy.
In the final weeks of the campaign, the Republican candidate for governor ran a television add
that described Quinn as an inept official on whose watch thousands of “hardened” criminals were
released to the street only to commit violent crimes and be returned home. Quinn responded
with ads that claimed he found out about the problem and “took action.” John O‟Connor wrote a
“fact checking” story for the Associated Press. He got part of it right --- that the prisoners
released under MGT-Push were not the hardened criminals described by Candidate Brady. But
he erred by inferring that MGT-Push reduced time served by four months or more.43
But the issue seemed to lose its momentum. There never was a follow-up to the Republican
forums. The cases originally cited to show the injustices and crimes that resulted from MGTPush lost their punch as the facts in each one failed to support hastily-made conclusions.
Then, on or about Sunday October 17, 2010 Republican officeholders issued a new charge:
Governor Quinn had “lied” when he declared he had “closed down” all good time credit
programs. As reported by the Associated Press, a group of Republican state Senators, two of
whom at least were members of the forums held in Peoria and Chicago over the summer, issued
a press release announcing that the good time credit programs Quinn had promised to close down
were in fact operating; 2,000 inmates had received awards as a result. 44
The claim was partly true. In December 2009 Governor Quinn did in fact end MGT-Push and in
January he suspended any further awards of MGT credit; in that sense he “closed down” the

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PAGE 13

program. But what he didn‟t do was to attempt to revoke good time credits previously awarded
prisoners, as we have described the process, “up front” and within three years‟ of a release date.
Nor could he have done so. The governing stature provides for revocation of good time credits
previously awarded prisoners only when a prisoner commits specific rule violations; moreover,
any revocation of more than 30 days must be based on charges brought before the Prisoner
Review Board.45 There is no provision for some kind of wholesale administrative revocation of
credits awarded for good time. But the 2,000 prisoners released after January 2010 with credit
for good time awarded prior to January 15, 2010 gave the political opposition a toehold on truth,
and that was all that was needed.
These were trumped up allegations. Governor Quinn was accused of lying for not having
attempted the impossible: retroactively revoking “good time” credits from all prisoners to whom
they had been awarded prior to January 15, 2010. But by making the allegation, no matter how ill
founded, the Republican opposition once again successfully put MGT-Push back into the news, a
symbol of the Administration‟s alleged incompetence, bad faith and disregard of public safety.46
MGT-Push had been an effective issue with which to attack the Governor in the Democratic
primary; it was, obviously, going to be just as effective for his opponents in the general election.
Illinois had found its Willie Horton, without actually having had the crime, the criminal or the
victim!

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IV. RECAP: WHAT EXACTLY
PLAN”?

WERE THE

FAILURES

OF THE

PAGE 14

“SECRET” “EARLY RELEASE

The media, commentators, the specially-appointed Erickson Committee, and politicians running
against the incumbent in the Democratic Primary and the General Election produced a spate of
allegations about MGT-Push. Almost none of were true or supported by fact:
Undeserving prisoners were awarded “good time” credits?
The Erickson Committee wrote:
inmates had to do little or nothing to demonstrate „meritorious‟ conduct deserving
of MGT Credit awards…. Under MGT Push and under the old MGT program,
inmates were labeled as “Meritorious” simply by virtue of being delivered into
DOC custody.47
If by “little or nothing” the Committee meant that Illinois prisoners do not have to engage in
educational, treatment or vocational programs or employment in prison to earn MGT credits,
then the Committee is accurately describing good time credits as they have been administered
since 1975. In that year Corrections administrators recognized that since the Department did not
have enough programs for all prisoners who desired and were eligible to engage in them, it was
unfair to deny good time to prisoners who through no fault of their own could not participate in
programs. So it stopped doing so.48
But if the Committee meant that all inmates who entered prison custody received MGT without
regard to their behavior in custody, its complaint lacked factual basis.
By law, some offenders are excluded from eligibility for MGT or are limited in the amount of
credit they can be awarded based on the offense of which they were convicted.49 For prisoners
legally eligible for good time credits, Departmental rules require the Director of the Department
or his or her designee to consider conduct reports, a prisoner‟s disciplinary record, job
performance and involvement in programs before they award good time credits to a prisoner.50
Neither the Erickson Committee, the Republican “forum,” nor the press has identified a single
instance in which the Department failed to follow rules regarding the award of MGT.
Information presented to the Committee indicated that historically, the IDOC has denied or
reduced MGT for a significant number of eligible prisoners:


An appellate court case to which the Erickson Committee itself referred cited evidence
submitted in a trial court proceeding that “clearly demonstrates” 4,106 of 21,611 inmates
(19%) released in fiscal year 1997 received less than 90 days MGT, and 2,194 (10%)
received no award at all.51



According to the IDOC Operations Working Group report, also before the Erickson
Committee, 1,904 of 36,965 inmates (5%) released in fiscal year 2009 received “zero
days” or “no time” in MGT credits.52

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The Department of Corrections released hundreds of violent offenders who should not have
been released?53
The Erickson Committee‟s Report, news reports and commentators, and politicians accused the
IDOC and the administration of releasing “hundreds” of “violent” offenders through MGT-Push.
The only evidence provided in the Erickson Committee Report is a line entry in a table in Exhibit
F to its report, according to which 14.8% (or about 260) of all prisoners released by the MGTPush program had been “convicted of violent crimes.” But the Erickson Committee Report does
not define what it meant by “violent crimes.” In a report that alleged the Department of
Corrections improperly released “violent” offenders, this was an oversight of the first order.
By law, a conviction of certain offenses limits or bars the award of good time credits. These
offenses are specifically enumerated in the code.54
As acknowledged by the Ericson Committee, the Department of Corrections is barred by law
from denying offenders MGT credit on the basis of convictions or accusations other than those
which are enumerated.55 DUI, domestic violence, and several other offenses which the
Committee, commentators and a section of the criminal code pertaining to victims56 define as
“violent” are not among the specifically enumerated offenses which bars or limits an award of
MGT credits. By law the Department could not deny MGT credit to an offender on the basis of
his or her conviction of committing one of these more generally-defined crimes. Those prisoners
were entitled to MGT and, for short term prisoners, to release under MGT-Push.
We do not know because the Erickson Committee Report does not define what it means by
“violent” offenses, but it is likely that most if not all of the prisoners identified in Exhibit F to
the Erickson Committee Report as “violent offenders” could not on that basis have been
denied MGT credit. The fact is that as far as can be determined neither the Erickson
Committee Report nor news reports identifies a single case in which MGT-Push resulted in
the release of a statutorily-ineligible violent offender.
For that matter, neither the Erickson Committee Report, news articles, nor the members of the
Republican forums have identified a single prisoner released under MGT or MGT-Push contrary
to law. No reports or articles identify a single prisoner who would have been held in custody
longer than 60 days if he or she had not been released under MGT-Push. No reports or articles
cite a single instance in which the release of a prisoner in advance of the 60 day period led to
harm to any member of the public although, given Illinois‟ 50% or greater recidivism rate, it
was highly likely that some MGT-released prisoners would again engage in crime.
Among those cases in which there has never been a showing of an improper or unlawful release
decision are those identified by the media, starting with the three featured in O‟Connell‟s
December 2009 AP story, the Derrick King case, the case of Michael Rodriguez, or the Edjuan L
Payne tragedy. The lack of follow-up or evidence of an improper release decision is hardly
surprising, for, as we have seen, MGT-Push did not cause the harm or injustice complained of in
these news stories.

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PAGE 16

The Program was “Secret”?
The headline allegation in the O‟Conner story of December 13, 2009 of a “secret” Department of
Corrections program was misleading.
Randle‟s approach to the problem of managing large numbers of lower level offenders and
offenders who serve less than a few months at the Department of Corrections was a matter of
official record. The principles underlying MGT-Push were first announced in Chicago at a public
John Howard Association of Illinois event on 17 September 2009. Randle told the group:
We must reduce the number of offenders coming into prison. We know that 47
percent of the offenders who are released from the IDOC have been in our
custody for six month or less. It is our belief that these mostly, low-level non
violent offenders can be punished in less expensive community options.57
Randle went on to develop his ideas in media interviews58 and in memoranda circulated to his
staff.59
While MGT-Push was hardly secret, it also was not announced with a press conference. The
Department treated MGT-Push as what it was: an administrative change in a practice that was
unsupported by law, the result of which was to credit prisoners with “good time” to which they
were entitled without an arbitrary 60 day delay and to reduce the cost of putting the Department
through an expensive classification process the outcome of which was irrelevant for prisoners
soon to be released in any event.
This proved to be the Department‟s fatal mistake: Department officials and the Administration
failed to anticipate the eagerness with which the news media, commentators, and political
opponents would equate “early release” with increased risk to public safety no matter the facts.
In a display of terrible public relations, Department officials themselves described MGT-Push as
an “early release” program. Even when the heat was on, they stuck to their designation, calling
MGT-Push “accelerated release” in press releases and written statements. For reporters sensing a
headline story and politicians bent on discrediting the incumbent Governor, the image of a
“secret” “early release” program was irresistible. The “secret” label stuck like glue; it appears in
almost every news story and political press release running right up to the November 2, 2010
election.

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PAGE 17

V. PUTTING ILLINOIS CITIZENS AT RISK
The controversy over MGT and MGT-Push in Illinois demonstrates the degree to which
policymakers and the public are wedded to the belief that letting a prisoner out earlier than the
date set by attorneys during plea negotiations or imposed by a judge at sentencing adversely
affects public safety. Though tightly held, this belief doesn‟t stand up under scrutiny.
Claims that MGT-Push endangered the public by advancing release dates were misplaced
and unfounded.
Many critics based their concerns about public safety on the misapprehension that MGT-Push let
offenders leave prison months or years in advance of their scheduled release date. However,
some critics who understood that MGT-Push only ended a 60 day delay period claimed that
removing that delay endangered public safety. As articulated by the Erickson Committee report,
the 60 day delay in awarding good time credits
affords the Department sufficient time to assess whether an inmate has earned
MGT Credit through good conduct in prison and, relatedly (sic), whether
releasing the inmate early with an MGT Credit award would create an undue risk
to public safety.60
The “assessment period” concept has diminished value given current realities. Most prisoners
entering the IDOC spend about 3-4 or more weeks in one of four Reception and Classification
facilities, the largest of which is located at Joliet where prisoners live and eat isolated in a single
cell. They are escorted under tight security to medical exams and for testing. Corrections
officers and staff have no opportunity to observe their behavior in a normal prison setting.
Officers might notice psychotic or overtly antisocial behavior but not anything less obvious.
After their time in Reception and Classification prisoners are transferred to a regular prison
where different staff must for the first time begin to observe them. They do not begin programs,
however, because long waiting lists prevent short term prisoners from entering them.
The automatic 60 day rule, now extended to 74 days by legislation, may very well increase
public risk. This is because in Illinois, a discretionary decision to retain or return a sentenced
offender to prison shortens the time he or she may be supervised in the community. Once
released, prisoners do not accumulate the statutory day-for-day credits which reduce the time he
or she serves in prison.
Release on MSR (Mandatory Supervised Release), then, effectively extends the period during
which parole agents, supporting and rehabilitating services including mandated drug treatment
can supervise an offender in the community. While community-based programs and services are
limited and parole supervision less than optimal in Illinois, the automatic rule delaying the
release of all new prisoners for a minimum of 60 days no matter when they become legally
eligible for release also delays their entry into a community-based structured program of
treatment and supervision which, for some offenders, would produce better outcomes.

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PAGE 18

WHY AUTOMATICALLY WITHHOLDING MGT AWARDS FROM ALL NEW PRISONERS
FOR 60 DAYS MAY PUT THE PUBLIC AT GREATER RISK
Most if not all Illinois prisoners who are eligible for MGT credit also receive statutory “day for day”
good time. This means that for each day they are incarcerated, a day is deducted from the time they
are to serve. Thus a prisoner sentenced to three years for felony theft will serve no more than 18
months. Upon release, the prisoner serves the remaining time under a kind of parole supervision
called “Mandatory Supervised Release,” or “MSR.” No “day for day” good time is awarded for time
served on MSR.
When a former prisoner on MSR is charged with violating the rules or a new crime and is returned to
custody, “day for day” good time is again deducted from his or her sentence. For example, if the
prisoner sentenced to three years and released after 18 months is arrested and returned after 24
months for violating a condition of release, he or she will have six months to serve if incarcerated but
12 months to serve on MSR. At the conclusion of either time period, the former prisoner will be
discharged from the three year sentence. Thus the Department will have no authority to supervise the
offender who serves the additional six months in prison after he or she is released.
As the Crime Control Act of 2009 explicitly recognized, supervision and treatment in the community
is more effective and less expensive than is prison incarceration for many convicted persons. During
the recent controversy over the award of MGT credit, Illinois opted for the more expensive and less
effective approach in two ways:


Parole officer took offenders into custody for minor rule violations rather than attempting to
correct behavior by other means or, as reportedly happened in many cases during the “early
release” controversy, parole officer took offenders into custody simply because “the program
ended;” and



The state withheld the award of MGT from all new prisoners rather than considering whether
for some offenders a better option would be to place them in a program of parole supervision,
treatment and employment while on MSR in the community (to which, we repeat one more
time, they will be returning in a matter of months in any event.)

Under Illinois law, either or both of the above steps shortens the period of time offenders may be
supervised in the community under MSR by two days for each day the offender is held in prison.
Thus the irony of a policy pursued in the name of “public safety:” the doubtful usefulness of taking
offenders into custody for minor rule violations or of withholding MGT credit from all new prisoners
for a minimum 60 day period costs the public twice: the amount by which the financial expense of
incarceration exceeds the expense of parole supervision or community-based programming; and, the
loss of the positive benefit to public safety that can come from 120 days of parole supervision and
constructive assistance in the community.

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PAGE 19

Illinois’ own history refutes the claim that good time credit programs increase crime
Illinois‟ history of two large-scale increases in the award of good time credits under Governor
James Thompson provided an opportunity for research into the effects of such programs. As it
happens, the data contradicts the argument that letting prisoners out in advance of a scheduled
date increases crime rates.
Among at least a dozen studies of the relationship between “early release” programs and crime
rates are two that looked at the large scale programs put in place in Illinois in 1980-1983 and
then again in 1990 when the legislature authorized an increase in MGT to 180 days. Both studies
showed that prisoners released with good time credits did not experience greater numbers of rearrests or returns to prison.61
In today‟s context, these findings make sense. The Department of Corrections has no opportunity
to work constructively with short term prisoners who will be released long before they can be
placed in any serious programming. For long-term prisoners, those with a year or more to serve,
the Department has demonstrated its capacity to change behavior and reduce recidivism by as
much as 62% through intensive, dedicated drug treatment, educational and vocational
programming. 62
Comparisons among other states continue to show that reducing prison incarceration can
accompany reductions in crime rates
Recent experience among states that have succeeded in reducing prison populations compared to
those that have increased prison populations show that the former have done better in terms of
increasing public safety.
The June 2009 report which was something of a precursor for this one provided Illinois
policymakers an opportunity to consider the relationship between changes in the size of a state‟s
prison population and public safety by comparing California, whose prison population had
grown at record rates, New York, which had reduced its prison population by thousands, and
Illinois which was then maintaining a fairly constant prison population. The data showed that
crime fell faster in New York than in California or Illinois.63
Updated data shows the same results a year later. New York continued to enjoy a faster decline
in crime than California or Illinois even as it continues to reduce incarceration by, among other
steps, ending the harshest aspects of its Rockefeller Drug Laws. The relationship is shown in
Figure 1 on the following page.

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PAGE 20

Fig. 1: Change in Prison Incarceration and Crime Rates in
Three States 1995 - 2008
Per Centage Change 1995 - 2008

40%
30%
20%
10%

Prison
Rates
Prisoners
(#)
Property
Crime
Violent
Crime

0%
-10%
-20%
-30%
-40%
-50%
-60%

California

llinois

New York

And while the FBI‟s report on crime by state for 2009 has not been available, the agency has
released relevant data about crime in large cities and for the nation as a whole. In 2009, violent
crime decreased 5.5 percent and property crime declined 4.9% nationwide.64 In New York City,
which drives criminal justice data in New York State in much the same way that Chicago drives
Illinois crime data, murder rates fell by 9.9%. New York‟s Mayor Bloomberg celebrated a
decrease in overall crime that outpaced the national average, declaring the City to be “the safest
big city in America.” 65
One year after the initial comparison between New York, California and Illinois, new
information shows that New York State‟s dual downward trend in incarceration and crime was
not simply an idiosyncratic fluke. In its 2010 report, Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four
States The Sentencing Project describes various policy initiatives which political leaders
undertook in Michigan, New Jersey, and Kansas (as well as New York) in order to successfully
reduce prison incarceration:66


Michigan reduced prison incarceration 12% from 2006 – 2009 by eliminating most
mandatory sentences for drug offenses, accelerating parole release through risk
assessment, planning two “reentry prisons” near Detroit, creating reentry assistance for
released prisoners, and establishing intermediate sanctions for parole violators.



New Jersey obtained a 19% reduction in incarceration from 1999 – 2009 by revising plea
negotiation guidelines to permit “open pleas” and greater judicial discretion at
sentencing, increased use of drug courts, risk assessment-based parole decisions and day
reporting, electronic monitoring and a restrained approach to parole rule violators.

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PAGE 21



Kansas reduced its prison population by 5% from 2003 – 2009 in large part by removing
mandatory sentences and reducing penalties for drug offenses, improving community
supervision and reducing parole revocations.



New York achieved a 20% reduction in incarceration from 1999 – 2009 by implementing
a combination of prosecutor-based and wide-spread publicly funded alternatives to
incarceration (ATI) programs, and by making significant use of “merit time” and earned
good time credits that could remove nearly a year from an imposed sentence.



Also in New York, reform of the Rockefeller drug laws in 2009 has reduced monthly
prison admissions for drug offenses from an average of 431 to just fewer than 270 in
November 2009.67

According to The Sentencing Project, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York experienced
a “steady decline in crime rates” at the same time that they were reducing prison incarceration.68
Data available for incarceration and crime rates through the end of 2008 now quantifies The
Sentencing Project‟s general finding. This data, appended on pages 24-25, shows for the six
states with which we have been closely concerned, that:


Crime rates decreased in nearly all categories in all four states. 69 The single exception
was in an increase in violent crime in Kansas between 2003 and 2008.70



Crime reductions in the states that reduced incarceration most -- New York, Michigan,
and New Jersey -- were of the same magnitude or greater than crime reductions in
Illinois, where the prison population increased. In Kansas property crime decreased faster
than did the rate for property crimes over the same period (2003-2008) in Illinois.



Murder and Non-negligent homicide rates in the states which decreased their prison
population are lower (in the range of 4.0-4.3 per 100,000 adult residents) or declining and
at levels lower than they are in Illinois and California which have not reduced
incarceration (in the 5.8 – 7+ per 100,000 adult residents range). Detroit joined New
York as a city that celebrated a decline in its murder rate --- by some 22%.71

Figure 2, on the following page, shows the relative changes in incarceration and crime for the
four states profiled in “Downscaling Prisons.” It is important to note that because Uniform Crime
Reports are not yet available for 2009, the comparisons shown in Figure 5 extend only through
2008. Hence in Michigan – which achieved a further reduction of 2,360 inmates and an
estimated incarceration rate of 455 prisoners per 100,000 residents in 2009, the decrease in
incarceration is understated in the chart.

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PAGE 22

Fig. 2: Change in Incarceration and Crime - Four States
Over Time Period (ending 2008) Profiled in
"Downscaling Prisons"

Per Centage Change over years shown

40%

20%

Prison
Rates

0%

Prisoners
(#)
Property
Crime

-20%

Violent
Crime
-40%

-60%

NY 99-08

MI 06-08

NJ 99-08

KA 03-08

The experience in these four states reinforces the proposition that reducing prison incarceration
can also lead to lower crime rates. And although it will take further research to explain why
crime appears to have decreased at a faster rate in states that are reducing prison incarceration
than in states that are not, really this result intuitively makes sense. States reducing incarceration
have done so by employing strategies that increase and improve community-based supervision,
provide constructive support for prisoners released on parole supervision, and fund treatment
alternatives to incarceration. Put another way: states have reduced both crime and incarceration
by substituting more human contact, support and assistance for offenders through communitybased programs for prison incarceration. These states have put themselves in a position to reduce
corrections costs and to free up public funds for alternative programs and services, including
those that prevent crime and improve public safety.72

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VI.

PAGE 23

CONCLUSION

Illinois has endured almost a full year of sensationalist media coverage and politically motivated
debate about an important aspect of crime policy. Perhaps the outcome of an election will be
determined by this debate.
But there are other issues at stake.
The state has a tremendous deficit. The state‟s prison system is severely overcrowded. The
deficit will get much worse if we lose control of the prison population, which will inevitably lead
to an increase in the corrections budget. These are facts.
The impact of the controversy over MGT-Push, the pressured decisions to end MGT-Push and to
suspend MGT on Illinois‟ prison population can already be seen. Figure 3, below, shows what
the numbers have been at the end of each month since December 2008. In the nine months
following the end of December 2009, Illinois‟ prison population increased by 3,034, from 45,161
to 48,195. Illinois has become a text-book example of what can happen when politics overrides
sound policy and facts yield to hyperbole in criminal justice decision-making.
Fig. 3: Illinois Prison Population 31 Dec 2008 - 30 Sep 2010
50000

47500

45000

42500

Sep-10

Aug-10

Jul-10

Jun-10

May-10

Apr-10

Mar-10

Feb-10

Jan-10

Dec-09

Nov-09

Oct-09

Sep-09

Aug-09

Jul-09

Jun-09

May-09

Apr-09

Mar-09

Feb-09

Jan-09

Dec-08

40000

The future impact of decisions Illinois policy-makers have made about crime and corrections
over the past year and that they will make in coming months is to be detailed in a subsequent
report.

APPENDIX: CRIME AND INCARCERATION RATES AND PRISON POPULATIONS FOR SIX STATES IN SELECTED YEARS
California rates for:

PAGE 24

1980
14.5
384.2
893.6

1985
10.5
327.7
765.3

1990
11.9
377.0
1,045.2

1995
11.2
331.2
966.0

1999
6.0
181.1
627.2

2000
6.1
177.9
621.6

2003
6.8
179.7
579.3

2005
6.9
176.0
526.0

2006
6.8
194.7
532.5

2007
6.2
193.0
522.6

2008
5.8
188.8
503.8

2009
-------

Property Crime total
Burglary

6,939.5
2,316.5

5,752.7
1,701.1

5,568.4
1,345.4

4,865.1
1,120.3

3,117.8
675.3

3,118.2
656.3

3,424.3
682.8

3,321.0
692.9

3,170.9
676.0

3,033.0
648.4

2,940.3
647.1

-----

Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

24,569
98
980.0

34,718
181
1,810.0

97,309
311
3,110.0

131,745
416
4,160.0

160,517
481

160,412
474
4,740.0

162,678
455

168,982
466
4,660.0

173,942
475

172,856
471
4,710.0

172,583
467

169,413
---

1980
10.6
367.0
808.0

1985
8.0
287.1
714.8

1990
10.3
394.0
967.4

1995
10.3
330.8
996.1

1999
7.7
219.4
732.5

2000
7.2
206.5
653.8

2003
7.1
188.2
556.8

2005
6.0
182.2
552.0

2006
6.1
185.3
541.6

2007
5.9
179.7
533.2

2008
6.1
186.4
525.4

2009

Property Crime total
Burglary

5,461.1
1,559.6

4,596.5
1,135.8

4,967.7
1,063.0

4,459.6
917.6

3,774.1
712.3

3,585.4
659.1

3,284.4
618.7

3,092.0
608.2

3,019.6
602.1

2,935.8
587.6

2,932.6
612.1

Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

11,497
94

18,634
161

27,516
234

37,658
317

44,660
368

45,281
371

43,418
342

44,919
351

45,106
350

45,215
355

45,474
351
130

45,161
349
est.

940.0

1,610.0

2,340.0

3,170.0

Robbery
Violent Crime total

1980
12.7
641.3
1,029.5

1985
9.5
504.4
929.9

1990
14.5
624.7
1,180.9

1995
8.5
399.7
841.9

1999
5.0
240.8
588.8

2000
5.0
213.6
553.9

2003
4.9
186.3
465.2

2005
4.5
182.1
444.0

2006
4.8
178.6
434.9

2007
4.2
161.1
414.1

2008
4.3
163.0
398.1

2009
-------

Property Crime total
Burglary

5,882.0
2,061.6

4,658.6
1,235.1

5,182.8
1,160.7

3,718.3
808.1

2,690.5
512.3

2,545.7
463.4

2,248.3
393.4

2,102.0
352.2

2,052.7
355.1

1,978.6
336.1

1,993.5
337.3

-----

Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

21,956
123
1,230.0
130

48,280
195
1,950.0
187

54,895
311
3,110.0
272

68,484
378

72,899
400

70,198
383

65,198
339

62,743
326
3,260.0
433

62,177
322

62,177
322
3,220.0
447

59,959
307
195
445

58,546
300
est.

Murder & Non-negligent homicide

Robbery
Violent Crime total

Illinois rates for:
Murder & Non-negligent homicide

Robbery
Violent Crime total

New York rates for:
Murder & Non-negligent homicide

US State Rates excludes federal)

379

3,710.0

432

3,510.0

445

APPENDIX: CRIME AND INCARCERATION RATES AND PRISON POPULATIONS FOR SIX STATES IN SELECTED YEARS

Michigan rates for:

1985

1990

Murder & Non-negligent homicide

Robbery
Violent Crime total
Property Crime total
Burglary
Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

New Jersey rates for:

2000
6.7
138.0
555.0

2003
6.1
111.7
511.2

2005
6.1
131.8
552.1

2006
7.1
140.7
562.4

2007
6.7
133.2
536.0

2008
5.4
129.6
501.5

2009
-------

4,495.0
909.7

3,749.9
777.9

3,554.9
702.2

3,277.3
677.2

3,091.1
696.8

3,212.8
753.9

3,065.7
748.9

2,934.8
741.5

-----

41,112
429

46,617
472

47,718
480

49,358
489

49,546
489

51,577
511

50,233
499

48,738
488
100

45,478
455

1985

1990

1995
5.1
283.0
599.8

1999
3.5
174.9
411.9

2000
3.4
161.1
383.8

2003
4.7
154.7
365.8

2005
4.8
151.6
354.7

2006
4.9
153.1
351.6

2007
4.4
144.5
329.3

2008
4.3
146.3
326.5

2009
-------

4,103.1
875.2

2,988.2
577.2

2,776.6
522.0

2,544.4
503.0

2,333.0
447.1

2,291.9
452.0

2,213.1
431.5

2,293.4
465.3

-----

Property Crime total
Burglary
11,335
149

21,128
271

22,808
340

31,493
384

29,784
362

27,246
314

27,359
313

27,371
313

26,827
308

25,953
298
87

25,351
291
est.

1985

1990

1995
6.2
108.2
420.7

1999
6.0
77.1
382.8

2000
6.3
76.2
389.4

2003
4.5
82.5
395.5

2005
3.7
65.3
387.4

2006
4.6
67.9
425.0

2007
3.9
72.6
452.7

2008
4.0
42.5
410.6

2009
-------

4,466.2
1,068.4

4,055.9
824.2

4,019.4
799.1

3,994.0
803.6

3,787.0
689.2

3,750.2
723.3

3,678.7
729.9

3,377.2
699.9

-----

7,055
274

8,567
321

8,344
312

9,132
334

9,068
330

8,816
318

8,696
312

8,539
303

8,641
307

Murder & Non-negligent homicide

Robbery
Violent Crime total
Property Crime total
Burglary
Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

1999
7.0
143.0
574.9

34,267
366

Robbery
Violent Crime total

Kansas rates for:

1995
8.5
187.3
687.8

17,775
196

Murder & Non-negligent homicide

Prison Incarceration: Prison Inmates
Incarceration rate/100,000 residents

PAGE 25

4,732
192

5,777
227

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PAGE 26

END NOTES
1

Report of the Taxpayer Action Board , Illinois State Government June 2009 (hereafter TAB Report); (accessible on line at:
http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/Documents/TAB%20Report%20FINAL.pdf); Malcolm C. Young, “Controlling
Corrections Costs in Illinois: Lessons from the Coasts” (Bluhm Legal Clinic Northwestern University School of Law, 3 June
2009; See, Recommendation 10 at p. 26 and n. 64, suggesting that in order to reduce the extraordinary cost of these sort stays
unaccompanied by any rehabilative benefit, the state or the Department of Corrections in conjunction with local governments
prohibit or restrict the county court‟s authority to refer short term prisoners to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
2
Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, enacted as Senate Bill 1289; P. A. 96-076; codified in 730 ILCS 190/1 et. seq.
3
Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, op. cit., 730 ILCS 190/5:
Sec. 5. Purpose and Definitions.
(a) Purpose. The General Assembly hereby declares that it is the policy of Illinois to preserve public safety,
reduce crime, and make the most effective use of correctional resources. Currently, the Illinois correctional
system overwhelmingly incarcerates people whose time in prison does not result in improved behavior and
who return to Illinois communities in less than one year. It is therefore the purpose of this Act to create an
infrastructure to provide effective resources and services to incarcerated individuals and individuals
supervised in the locality; to hold offenders accountable; to successfully rehabilitate offenders to prevent
future involvement with the criminal justice system; to measure the overall effectiveness of the criminal
justice system in achieving this policy; and to create the Adult Redeploy Illinois program for those who do
not fall under the definition of violent offenders.(Emphasis added.)
4
Enacted as Senate Bill 1320; P. A. 96-0711.
5
For a description of several “earned good time” programs and a table of state laws and programs, see, Alison Lawrence, Cutting
Corrections Costs: Earned Time Policies for State Prisoners National Conference of State Legislators (July 2009). (The report‟s
table information is summarized in Meritorious Good Time Program Findings and Recommendations, report prepared by
members of a departmental Operations Committee with the pro bono assistance from the consulting firm Ernst & Young.;
hereafter cited as “Operations Committee Report”) The objectives of earned good time programs include prison management and
reducing the size of prison populations. In summary,
States are creating and expanding earned time programs that reduce the length of stay for certain offenders
while maintaining public safety. Among policies that states use to reserve prison beds for the most dangerous
offenders, earned time also creates an incentive for motivated offenders to work, take part in rehabilitation,
and otherwise prepare to be successful in the community. Earned time is helping states reduce the corrections
budget burden and allows funds saved to be invested in programs that reduce recidivism and help build safe
communities. (Emphasis added).
6
See, for example, the discussion presented in: The Future of Sentencing in New York State: Recommendations for Reform,
New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform (January 30, 2009):
Undeniably, many violent felony offenders have committed egregious criminal acts that would argue against
eligibility for a merit time release. By the same token, DOCS‟ experts point out that a number of these
offenders have demonstrated, over a span of many years, a deep sense of remorse, recognition of the harm
they have caused, a strong determination to reform their lives and a desire to serve the common good by
becoming law-abiding citizens. * * * * On balance, the Commission finds that affording a merit time
incentive to incarcerated offenders with a past history of violence for participation in programs likely to lead
to a change in criminogenic attitudes and better prepare them to lead law-abiding lives after release is a
positive public safety measure that should be implemented in New York.
(Pages 162, 163-164; citations omitted).
7
James Austin, “Reforming Mississippi‟s Prison System,” monograph prepared by the JFA Institute with assistance from the
Mississippi Department of Corrections for the Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Center on the States (undated; circa.
2009/2010), at p. 4. With 22,800 state prisoners in 2007, Mississippi had the second highest incarceration rate, 735 residents per
100,000 residents, among American states. Approved by the legislature, the plan to reduce the population by expending parole
eligibility and parole release rates targets only non-violent offenders and excludes from its benefits most drug offenders. (Id., at
pp. 2, 4, 8). By implementing these several reforms, Mississippi lowered its projected prison population of 28,000 in 2017 by
5,000.
This document may be accessed at: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/initiatives_detail.aspx?initiativeID=56957 and
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8200082/JFIonMississippi.pdf .
8
John Buntin, “Mississippi‟s Corrections Reform,” Governing magazine on line for August, 2010. Accessed on 18 October 2010
at http://www.governing.com/mag/August-2010.html
9
Guzzo v. Snyder, 261 Ill. Dec. 94, 762 N. E. 2d 663, 326 Ill. App. 3d 1058, 1063, following Lane v. Skladowski 97 Ill. 2d 311,
3 Ill. Dec. 462, 454NE 2d 322, 324-325 (1983), reviewing the history and legislative purpose of the Pub. Act 80-1099, 1977 Ill.
Laws 3264.
10
Lane v. Skladowski id., 454 NE 2d at 322, 324-325.
11
Carolina Gusman, Barry Krisberg & Chris Tsukida, “Accelerated Release: A Literature Review,” (NCCD, January 2008), at p.
7.
12
Lane v. Skladowski, op. cit., 454 NE 2d at 322, 325.

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In 1989 Illinois along with other states experienced over 14% increases in prison populations, fueled by a
doubling in drug arrests. Midyear 1989 the state‟s prison population was 22,576; prisons were reported to be
filled to double capacity. See, Tony Parker, “Surge in Prison Population,” The Bloomington Pantagraph
(Bloomington, IL) September 12, 1989, p. A2.
14
730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a) amended July 13, 1990; see, Illinois v. Kokendeis, (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1994) 632 N. E. 2d 158, 161
reviewing legislative history including source of confusion between “compensatory good time credit” which existed before 1978
and “good time credit” awarded under the new determinate sentencing law effective in 1978.
15
Report on the Meritorious Good Time and MGT Push Programs prepared by the Committee chaired by David Erickson.
(Hereafter cited as, “Erickson Committee Report”) at p. 4 n. 3.
16
Operations Committee Report, op.cit. See, unnumbered table on p. 48 which sets forth the average good time credit awarded
prisoners in all categories from 1985 – 2009.
17
Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse (Knopf, March 2005) describes
the plea and trial process in Cook County in rich detail. See also, A Report on Chicago’s Felony Courts Chicago Appleseed
Fund for Justice - Criminal Justice Project (Chicago, IL December 2007).
18
730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(4)-(4.6).
19
The average of “good time” credit awarded to prisoners who complete GED courses and other academic, vocational or
rehabilitative programs for prisoners eligible for good time credits and released in 2009 was 15 days, Operations Committee
Report, op cit., at p. 48.
20
Director Randle also began to implement a long-authorized electronic monitoring / house arrest program which, unlike MGTPush, actually was an “early release” program. Publicly announced to provide alternatives to prison incarceration for up to1, 000,
the program was also swept up in controversy and closed down before reaching capacity. We do not address it here since it
figured only briefly in the overall controversy surrounding “early release.”
21
Carried by many Illinois papers, the article can be retrieved at: http://www.sj-r.com/archive/x1479444730/AP-report-Illinoisprisons-shave-terms-secretly-release-inmates
22
Steve Bogira, Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse, op. cit; A Report on Chicago’s
Felony Courts Chicago, op. cit.
23
Spokesperson for Cook County State‟s Attorney Anita Alvarez; Winnebago‟s State‟s Attorney Joseph Bruscato told the
reporter that, “When an individual who was supposedly sent to prison shows up a month later, what are the people in the
community saying, what is the victim thinking?” Prior to MGT-Push, of course, individuals sentenced after a plea bargain as
these three were would have “showed up” less than two months later.
24
Eric Zorn, “Time to get serious about prison terms,” Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2010. Accessed on line at:
http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2010/01/king.html on 17 August 2010.
25
Examples of unfavorable news coverage include: “An initiative by Governor Quinn to save taxpayers about $5 million
annually by letting 1,000 inmates out of prison early is off to a rocky start – with dozens of burglars, repeat drunken drivers and
financial criminals all being sent home for the holidays.” The article quotes Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokesperson who
“bristled at the suggestion that drunken-driving is a non-violent crime,” and Governor Quinn‟s primary opponent opposed to
“releasing dangerous criminals.” Chris Fusco and Frank Main,”Inmates freed early not exactly „low level offenders.‟” Chicago
Sun Times December 22, 2009.
Frequent wire service stories carried oppositional statements by prosecutors and others, see, e.g. “Ill. Prosecutors: Early Release
hurts justice,” Associated Press 13 December 2009, accessed on 1 June 2010 at:
http://www.wandtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=11669611. Blogs were even more heated: see, e.g.,
http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/arresting-tales/2009/09/governor-quinn-announces-new-catch-release-program.html .
26
Illinois Department of Corrections 2009 Annual Report p. 31; in 2009 a total of 12,698 or one third of all IDOC admissions
were of former prisoners returned to the custody for violating conditions of their release.
27
Erickson Committee Report, op. cit. at p. 10, states that after reviewing “our preliminary recommendations” Governor Quinn
“terminated” the MGT-Push program on December 30, 2009 at which time he “instituted an overall of all Departmental early
release programs.” According to the Report, the IDOC “stopped awarding any MGT Credit to inmates, pending overhaul of the
Department‟s processes for sentence calculation, credit award and release.”
28
Press Release: “Governor Quinn Overhauls Prison Release Program,” Office of Governor Pat Quinn December 30, 2009. The
Press Release states that Governor Quinn was suspending “MGT Push” by reinstating with a formal rule the long-standing
Department practice of requiring inmates to spend at least 61 days in the Department of Corrections before being released
because of credits for good time.
29
Public Act 96-860, 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a) (3) effective 15 January, 2010.
30
The following were sources for information provided in the text box, “The headline reads: “Murder suspect of Illinois Prison
after 40 days,” (1/7/2010): Rich Miller, “Complete utter insanity” blog on Capital Fax for Wednesday 6 January 2010, accessed
at http://www.weareillinois.org/connect/newsdetail.aspx?newsid=8277 on 13 August 2010. Other references include: IDOC
Inmate Search page; “Press Release :Task Force Nets Indictments, Arrests in Cold Case Homicides” Office of the Kane County
State‟s Attorney John A. Barsanti, June 29, 2007; Matt Hanley, “Shooter says father and son orchestrated rival‟s murder,” The
Beacon News (Aurora, Illinois 31 October 2008; Clifford Ward, “18 years later, Aurora man guilty of murder,” Chicago
Breaking News.com November 7, 2008 accessed on 10 August at http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/11/18-years-lateraurora-man-guilty-of-halloween-murder.html.

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An editorial in the Chicago Sun Times responded to an apparent rumor that Governor Pat Quinn was poised to fire Director
Randle, stated: “If Quinn fires Randle … he will have * * * * [s]et back the cause of prison reform in Illinois for years to come,
at a great waste of taxpayer‟s money” Editorial, “Consequences of Quinn firing Randle,” Chicago Sun Times March 7, 2010.
32
In May 2010, news media reported widely on the arrest of a former inmate who had served time for murder and then was
released early from a sentence imposed for a less serious offense, see Matt Buedell, “Slaying Suspect was twice released early
from prison,” Peoria Journal Star, May 14, 2010 accessed on line 1 June 2010 at:
http://www.pjstar.com/news/x1070008192/Suspected-killer-was-released-early-from-prison-two-times
33
Notes from oral presentation provided by Alan Mills 18 October 2010. Mills‟ comments during and after the forum were
recorded by local media including television.
34
John O‟Conner, “Corrections agent passes blame on early release,” Associated Press wire story as posted on line by the
LincolnCourier.com May 18, 2010:
Gov. Pat Quinn criticized the Prisoner Review Board over the weekend for the early release of a man now
charged with murder, but he ignored a vital fact: While he says the board should have ordered Edjuan Payne
held for six months, his administration recommended two, about the same amount of time Payne was locked
up.
Payne was serving time for criminal damage to property when he got out last fall as part of Quinn‟s secret
early prison release program, although he also had an earlier murder conviction. He was sent back in January
for violating parole on the property damage charge by drinking alcohol and not properly reporting to his
parole agent. He was freed in March. On Friday, he was charged with murder in Peoria.
Quinn responded Saturday by saying the review board, which decides whether parole violators will stay
locked up, should have kept him for six months, to make up for good-conduct time Quinn‟s Corrections
Department shaved off earlier.
But records reviewed by The Associated Press show Corrections recommended Payne serve only two months
for his parole infractions.
Payne was locked up longer than that before the PRB set him free.
Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said Monday that Payne‟s parole agent suggested the two-month
term and it was not an official agency recommendation, although it was signed by her supervisor. Elman also
said PRB didn‟t consider all of Payne‟s transgressions.
Payne, 40, is charged with murder, attempted murder and child endangerment in the death of Orvette Davis,
41, of Peoria, whose 8-month-old granddaughter is recovering after she was found near Davis‟ body
Thursday morning.
Payne was part of the secret “MGT Push” early release program last fall and had more than five months of
good-conduct time shaved off his sentence as soon as he arrived in prison. Quinn suspended the program
Dec. 30 after the AP reported it.
Accessed 30 August 2010 at http://www.lincolncourier.com/news/x1070012472/Corrections-agent-passes-blame-onearly-release
O‟Conner fairly describes various officials including Governor Quinn‟s efforts to assign blame for Payne‟s release but
he incorrectly described the administration of “good time” credits. Contrary to O‟Connner‟s implication that a prisoner
sentenced on a minor property offense should have been denied MGT credits on the basis of a prior murder for which
he had served his sentence, the IDOC can not deny MGT credit based on crimes committed prior to the offense for
which a prisoner is committed to the IDOC. In referring to the “secret „MGT-Push‟ early release” program, O‟Conner
incorrectly implies the Department “shaved” “more than five months of good-conduct time” off Payne‟s sentence
through MGT-Push. What is correct is that MGT credits would reduce Payne‟s time served by up to 180 days, and that
MGT-Push only came to play because Payne, a prisoner sentenced for a minor offense, satisfied the requirements for
MGT credits. MGT-Push reduced time served by days and only because the 60 day rule was delaying his release.
Lastly, O‟Conner slides over the fact that, even had the Department denied Payne all of his MGT credits, he would in
any event have been released prior to the May murder.
35
Conversations with senior Department of Corrections staff. A number of advocacy groups and individuals submitted letters
asking Governor Quinn to decline to accept Montes‟ resignation. As expressed in private conversations many who knew Montes
were convinced Montes was forced out.
36
Erickson Committee Report, op. cit., at p. 10; or, as a concluding judgment, “The MGT Push program was ill conceived,” at p.
19. The Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph Editorial Board bought the Erickson Committee‟s statements and conclusions
completely, criticizing Quinn‟s response as “reforms [that] don‟t come close to instituting the well-thought-out recommendations
of Erickson‟s three person panel.” Pantagraph Editorial Board, “Early-release program needs more changes,” Pantagraph,
August 25, 2010.
37
Comments and reports supporting MGT-Push and critical of the Erickson Committee Report were published: Steven
Eisenman, “The Scandal that Wasn‟t,” Chicago Sun-Times op-ed column 25 August 2010, cited below; and, Malcolm C. Young,
“Preliminary Findings of an Investigation of Early Release in Illinois,” submitted to the Republican panel investigating MGT and
MGT-Push on 25 August 2010 and subsequently published on Chicago Tribune Reporter Eric Zorn‟s blog.
38
Stephen Eisenman, “The Scandal That Wasn‟t,” op.cit.
39
The writer observed the panel‟s Chicago proceedings and submitted oral and written testimony
40
Sun-Times editorial board, “Prison chief is victim of political games,” Sun Times paper, online edition for September 3, 2010.

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Sun-Times editorial board, Prison chief is victim of political games,” op. cit.
Stephen Eisenman‟s detailed recitation of factual errors behind the criticism of MGT-Push was published on line at MRZine:
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/eisenman150910.html.
43
John O‟Conner, “AP fact checks dueling Quinn, Brady ads on early release,” Associated Press, Springfield, Illinois; accessed
at http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-7904-administration-claims-no-more-early-release.html
44
Patrick Yeagle, “Administration claims no more early release,” Illinois Times October 21, 2010: “The Republican group,
which includes Sen. Kirk Dillard of Naperville, Rep. Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst, DuPage County State‟s Attorney Joe Birkett
and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, characterizes those releases as part of a continuing MGT program. They accuse Quinn
of lying about the program‟s suspension and say that IDOC can and should revoke any good time credits already given.”
Accessed on October 21, 2010 at http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-7904-administration-claims-no-more-earlyrelease.html
45
730 ILCS5/3-6-3 (c) is unequivocal:
The Department shall prescribe rules and regulations for revoking good conduct credit, or suspending or
reducing the rate of accumulation of good conduct credit for specific rule violations, during imprisonment.
These rules and regulations shall provide that no inmate may be penalized more than one year of good
conduct credit for any one infraction.
When the Department seeks to revoke, suspend or reduce the rate of accumulation of any good conduct
credits for an alleged infraction of its rules, it shall bring charges therefore against the prisoner sought to be
so deprived of good conduct credits before the Prisoner Review Board as provided in subparagraph (a)(4) of
Section 3-3-2 of this Code, if the amount of credit at issue exceeds 30 days or when during any 12 month
period, the cumulative amount of credit revoked exceeds 30 days except where the infraction is committed or
discovered within 60 days of scheduled release. (Emphasis added).
46
News reports which followed up on allegations by Republican of a continued “secret” “early release” program thoroughly
conflated MGT and MGT-Push, inferred that MGT-Push released prisoners with long sentences left to serve “before they had
even served 60 days,” repeated allegations that offenders were being released after serving less time than expected by State‟s
Attorneys and law enforcement officials, and equated MGT with a diminution of public safety. See for example, Doug Wilson,
“GOP officials say early prison release program continues, corrections officials deny it,” Quincy (IL) Herald Whig, October 21,
2010, excerpted below:
State Rep. Jil Tracy said the early prisoner release program that Gov. Pat Quinn says he ended last December
is still putting dangerous convicts on the streets in Illinois.
Quinn has denied the charges and calls press conferences by Republican officials an election-year stunt to
mislead voters.
Tracy and state's attorneys from Adams, Brown, Hancock and Schuyler counties held a press conference at
the Adams County Courthouse to warn the public that prisoners are still winning early release.
"I don't think public safety should be jeopardized. This wasn't well thought out," Tracy said.
The Meritorious Good Time (MGT Push) early release of prisoners resulted in some prisoners winning
release from the Illinois Department of Corrections before they had served even 60 days behind bars. Retired
judge David Erickson of Chicago did a review of the program last year and suggested the program be
abandoned. Quinn ended the program in December.
****
Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard said a man who was sent to prison for armed robbery and
received a seven-year sentence was at a football game about a year and a half after that sentence was to start.
Jon McCoy, the Republican nominee for Adams County sheriff, said he recently saw a man at a campaign
event who was convicted of a bank robbery less than three years ago.
Hancock County Sheriff John Jefferson said Western Illinois is fortunate to have good judges. He does not
think sentences recommended by the judges should be reduced.
Tracy said the MGT Push release program was initiated to ease a funding crisis that has Illinois facing a $13
billion deficit.
Barnard agrees that money is at the heart of the problem.
"The problem is that money should never and can never take precedence over safety," Barnard said.
****
Accessed on 21 October 2010 at http://www.whig.com/story/news/Early-prison-release----FRI-10-22.
47
Erickson Committee Report, op. cit., at p. 12.
48
Hampton v. Rowe 88 Ill. App. 3d 352, 43 Ill. Dec. 511, 410 N. E. 511,512-513.
49
730 ILCS 5/3-6-3 as amended.
50
See, Sec. 107.210 of the Illinois Administrative Code, reproduced in Braver v. Washington (1st District, 1999) 311 Ill. App. 3d
179, 243 Ill. Dec. 759, 724 N. E. 2d 68 at 75.
51
Braver v. Washington, op. cit. 724 N. E. 2d 68 at 74.
52
Operations Committee Report, op. cit., at p. 16.
42

53

“Hundreds” became 2,000 in the political ad aired by the Brady campaign in October 2010.

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730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2) defines the offenses the commission of which renders an offender ineligible for various good time
credits. The section prohibits totally the award of day-for day good time credits to prisoners serving a prison term for first degree
murder. Awards of day-for-day or “statutory” good time credits are limited to no more than 4.5 days per month served for
specified violent offenses including attempt murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, and aggravated
battery with a firearm and aggravated domestic battery, see 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3 (a)(2). Section 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(3) prohibits
the award of “meritorious” good time credits (MGT) to offenders who after specified dates committed most of the same offenses
enumerated in 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2) including first degree murder, aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol or other
drugs, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery of a spouse.
55
“Currently, so long as the offense [of conviction] is MGT credit-eligible, the Director … cannot differentiate between crediteligible violent and credit-eligible non-violent offenses.” Erickson Committee Report, op. cit., at p. 5, citing Howell v. Snyder
(4th Dist. 2001) op. cit., 236 Ill. App. 3d at 454 and Guzzo v. Snyder (3d Dist. 2001) 326 Ill. App. 3d 1058, 1063.
56
Compared to 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2), cited above, Illinois‟ Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, 725 ILCS 120/1;
Illinois P. A. 88-489 defines “violent crime” broadly and inclusively. Crimes defined in the Rights of Crime Victims and
Witnesses Act include offenses which are not defined as “aggravated” under the Illinois criminal code while many of the crimes
specified in 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2) are limited to the “aggravated” offense. The section states:
(c) "Violent Crime" means any felony in which force or threat of force was used against the victim, or any
offense involving sexual exploitation, sexual conduct or sexual penetration, or a violation of Section 11-20.1
or 11-20.3 of the Criminal Code of 1961, domestic battery, violation of an order of protection, stalking, or
any misdemeanor which results in death or great bodily harm to the victim or any violation of Section 9-3 of
the Criminal Code of 1961, or Section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, or a similar provision of a local
ordinance, if the violation resulted in personal injury or death, and includes any action committed by a
juvenile that would be a violent crime if committed by an adult. For the purposes of this paragraph, "personal
injury" shall include any Type A injury as indicated on the traffic accident report completed by a law
enforcement officer that requires immediate professional attention in either a doctor's office or medical
facility. A type A injury shall include severely bleeding wounds, distorted extremities, and injuries that
require the injured party to be carried from the scene.
57
Michael Randle, Remarks to the John Howard Association of Illinois 17 September 2009 (Delivered at the Association‟s
Annual Meeting and Luncheon; carried on the IDOC website for at 11 months). p. 2.
58
Michael Randle, Remarks to the John Howard Association of Illinois, op. cit; “IDOC Director Randle Announces Prison
Reforms,” eNews Park Forest, 21 September 2009.
59
For a copy of an implementing memorandum issued by the Department of Corrections published on September 17, 2009, see
Exhibit E to the Erickson Committee Report.
60
Erickson Committee Report, op. cit. at p. 13.
61
Carolina Gusman, Barry Krisberg & Chris Tsukida, “Accelerated Release: A Literature Review” op. cit., summarizes research
findings from more than 12 peer-reviewed articles, dissertations and state reports describing merit good time credit programs that
were in place over a 23 year period, including Supplemental Meritorious Good Time, the program implemented by the Thompson
Administration which awarded multiple 90 day blocks of “good time” credit to Illinois prisoners from 1979-1983 and in 1990.
For a 1986 evaluation that concluded that Illinois prisoners whose release date was advanced by MGT did not have a higher
probability of arrest or return to prison than those who served a full prison term, see: James Austin, “Using Early Release to
Relieve Prison Crowding: A Dilemma in Public Policy,” Crime and Delinquency (October 1986).
62
The combination of reentry services that help formerly-incarcerated persons reintegrate into their communities, employment
gained through preparation while incarcerated, notably at Sheridan Correctional Center (one of two drug treatment prisons which
provides educational and vocational training) and continued community services and supervision bring recidivism rates over
three years from an average of 52.3% for all prisoners released in FY 2005 to 16-20%. “Safer Foundation Three Year
Recidivism Study 2008” (Undated single page summary released by the Safer Foundation, Chicago, Illinois)
63
“Controlling Corrections Costs in Illinois,” op. cit. at p. 2.
64
Press release, “FBI Releases Preliminary Annual Crime Statistics for 2009,” FBI National Press Office, Washington, D.C. 24
May 2010.
65
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg hailed the decrease in city homicides and cited causes: "There have been 43 fewer murders,
1,415 fewer robberies and 491 fewer cars stolen than this same time just a year ago * * * "Using innovative policing strategies
and a focus on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, we are continuing to do more with less, in spite of the economic
downturn." Bill Sanderson, Associated Press, “NY Safest of All Big Cities,” New York Post 3 June 2009, accessed on line 3 July
2010 at: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/regional/item_KwpQPtSU9ivJn69UinZMWM Chicago actually experienced a 10.2%
decline in murders from 2008 to 2009. But with a 2.8 million population, Chicago‟s 458 murders in 2009 represent a far higher
rate than does New York with a population of 8.4 million and 471 reported murders. Source: Crime in the United Preliminary
Uniform Crime Reports, FBI Washington, D.C. 24 May 2010,
accessed at: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelimsem2009/index.html
66
Judith Greene and Marc Mauer, Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States (The Sentencing Project – 2010), at p. 2.
67
Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States, op. cit., at various pages.
68
Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States, id. 60.
69
Figure 1 and the discussion in the accompanying text are based on time periods ending in December 2008 because Uniform
Crime Report data for end of year 2009 has not been reported at the time this section was written. Consequently the decrease in

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incarceration shown for Michigan is understated as the state further reduced incarceration by 3,260 in 2009, bringing its
incarceration rate to an estimated 455. (See data presented in the Appendix).
70
But as shown in Attachment A, Kansas‟ offense rates for both murder and robbery, already relatively low in comparison to
Michigan, Illinois, Michigan, New York and in recent years in New Jersey, over this same time period. Kansas‟ fluctuation in
overall violent crime appears driven principally but not exclusively by changes in aggravated assault, a less serious offense the
reporting of which fluctuates more than does reporting for more serious offenses; see, FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 20032008.
71
Statistics released by Detroit city officials show that the city suffered 140 homicides during a portion of 2010, a 27 percent
reduction from the same period in 2009. Nonfatal shootings in the same period decreased 22 percent. Public officials credited a
new Chief who deployed officers to crime “hot spots” identified by reported data and who set up a mobile strike force with
special units to tackle gang violence and apprehend fugitives. George Hunter, “Homicides Down in Detroit from 2009, statistics
show,” DetroitNews.com (June 27, 2010) accessed on 15 July 2010 at
http://www.detnews.com/article/20100627/METRO/6270311/1409/Homicides-down-in-Detroit-from-2009--statistics-show
72
Alison Laurence, Cutting Corrections Costs Earned Time Policies in State Prisons, op. cit., see text of note 28, supra.

 

 

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