prisons

Statehouse
7:37 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Lawmakers To Discuss House Plan To Fill Budget Hole

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion hole in this year's state budget.

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Statehouse
5:21 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Criminal Justice Advocates Want Shorter Sentences For Minors

Credit flickr/meeshpants

Xavier McElrath-Bey was arrested when he was 13 years old. The Chicagoan went to prison for first degree murder for a gang-related crime. He left prison on good behavior at the age of 27 with a college degree in hand.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie wants to make sentencing for minors more lenient. House Bill 2471 would prohibit judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. House Bill 2470 would allow minors to have their sentence reviewed after serving 15 years.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
5:04 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Governor Picks Sentencing Commission

Gov. Bruce Rauner at the February announcement of his sentencing commission.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday named the men and women he's asked to assess crime and punishment in Illinois. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform comprises 28 men and women, a significant number of whom are well known as advocates for a more rational approach to criminal justice — that is, basing sentencing decisions on what's most likely to rehabilitate an offender while also protecting the public.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Will Rauner Get Tough On Getting Tough On Crime?

Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey writes the State of the State column for Illinois Issues magazine.
Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stunning declaration last month in his State of the State address.

“The conditions in our prisons are unacceptable,” Rauner said. “Inmates and corrections officers alike find themselves in an unsafe environment. It’s wrong.”

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State Week
1:29 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Listen to State Week - February 13, 2015

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, Governor Rauner's efforts toward allowing government workers to stop paying union dues and toward revising the state's criminal justice policies.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:48 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Governor Visits State Prison — First Time In Years

Gov. Bruce Rauner is seen at his inauguration in this January 2015 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited a state prison Wednesday. It’s the first time a sitting governor has done that in years.

Rauner says an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system a priority for his administration.

"The Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of its design capacity," Rauner says. "That is unsafe to both inmates and staff."

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Statehouse
11:53 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Rauner Convenes (Another) Task Force On Sentencing

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a commission to look at sentencing policy in Illinois. He was flanked by officials from the criminal justice system at a news conference in the Sangamon County Building in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Wednesday he would convene a commission to look at criminal justice policy.

State prisons in Illinois are at 150 percent of the capacity they were built to house. They also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion a year. And many inmates, once released, go on to commit more crimes. Rauner says that’s unacceptable.

"It is a vicious and costly cycle," Rauner says. "We need to make sure we are rehabilitating inmates, so they don’t commit crimes over and over again."

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Adult Redeploy: Paying To Keep People Out Of Prison

Credit flickr/dnak

Illinois has a clear ambition for what it would like to do with members of its criminal class, and it’s right there in the name of the state agency set up to deal with them: the Department of Corrections. But there is a wide gap between ambition and practice. This is not to blame the department: politicians enacted the policies that have swelled the prison population, and politicians are largely responsible for the dire financial condition of the state that has squeezed agencies like the DOC.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Introducing the 'State of the State' Blog

Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor's note: January marks a new phase in our journalism. Following the merger of WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have enough journalists to enable reporting on a beat model. This allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting. Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative."

STATE OF THE STATE
CAN GOOD GOVERNMENT ABIDE GOOD POLITICS?

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
1:00 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Criminal Sentencing - A State Legislative Panel Looks At Whether There’s A Better Way To Punish

Not long ago, attempts to raise criminal penalties in Illinois were met with a standing joke. All such legislation had to make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where by informal agreement, it could only advance if it satisfied the sole criterion of the Cullerton Rule. On April 20, 2005, Sen. Edward Maloney, a Democrat from Chicago, presented House Bill 2699, a bipartisan measure that sought to raise the penalties for identity theft.

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Dept. of Corrections
9:56 am
Thu October 2, 2014

After A Prisoner Escapes

Marcus Battice, the 21-year-old man who escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center on Sept. 23.
Credit Illinois Department of Corrections

The state agency that oversees prisons does not expect to make significant changes to its operations, following the escape of an inmate last week from a minimum security prison located about an hour east of St. Louis.

Officials issued an alert when 21-year-old Marcus Battice escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center, where he was serving time for stealing a car. Battice turned up the next morning, about three-and-a-half miles away.

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Statehouse
4:44 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Chicago Mayor: Lower Penalties For Drugs

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is seen in this file photo.
Credit cityofchicago.org

  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession.

  Two years ago, Chicago began allowing its police to issue tickets for possessing small amounts of pot, rather than immediately making an arrest.

Emanuel says the change is working: "We have seen about 4,100 fewer arrests in that area."

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Statehouse
8:42 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Off Supervision, George Ryan Talks About Time In Prison

Former Illinois governor George Ryan.
Credit WBEZ

Former Gov. George Ryan has finished a year of supervision following his release from home confinement last summer after a prison sentence for corruption convictions.

Ryan was released from prison in January 2013 and was confined to his home until last July. At the time his lawyer and friend former Gov. Jim Thompson said that Ryan was subject to another year of supervision and some travel restrictions. That ends this week.

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Statehouse
1:00 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

In Illinois Legislature, A Culture Change On Criminal Sentencing

Credit flickr/meeshpants

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed January 1, 2014

The Great Tube Steak Debate and Other Procurement Policy Pickles

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When a September meeting of one of Illinois’ many obscure government oversight commissions turned into a discussion about the proper seasoning blend for making hot dogs, it served as yet another reminder that there are problems with the state’s revamped rules for purchasing goods and services.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sun December 1, 2013

The Congressman's Fabulous Fall: He's Not Even the First Congressman from IL to Go to Federal Prison

Sandi and Jesse Jackson Jr. at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

His predecessor in the U.S. House, Mel Reynolds, went to jail in the mid-’90s, being convicted of bank fraud and having sex with a 16-year-old girl. But Jesse Jackson Jr. was the first son of a candidate for president from Illinois to serve time in prison.

In late October, Jackson Jr. reported to a North Carolina prison camp, where he was expected to serve until December 2015. It was the end of what had been a spectacular rise and a hard fall. He was still trying to come up with the cash to cover his restitution.

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Prison Closures
9:10 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Illinois Needs Comprehensive Plan For Facilities: Rutherford

Credit flickr/katerha

A Republican candidate for governor is once again calling for Illinois to change the way it manages major facilities, like prisons and developmental centers. That includes how the state closes such facilities.

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says past attempts to close prisons and other big state institutions have been haphazard. He says this has been going on for years, back at least to the administrations of former governors Ryan and Blagojevich. But it's still happening, as with this year's closure of the women's prison in Dwight.

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Brunch
6:35 am
Mon September 16, 2013

In Some Illinois Prisons, Two Meals A Day

Credit flickr/meeshpants

More and more prisoners in Illinois are being served brunch, eating two meals a day instead of three. Prison officials say it's actually better for many inmates.

Feeding prisoners is a lot of work — not only cooking and cleaning up, but moving inmates from cells or dorms over to the mess hall.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer says at some prisons, breakfast is served at 4 a.m., which means moving inmates in the dark.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Fri June 1, 2012

The Supermax Debate: Do Supermaximum-Security Prisons Violate Human Rights?

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gray, bleak and desensitizing. Hope-draining and soul-crushing. That is how some who have entered the walls of the state’s super-maximum-security prison in Tamms describe it. 

“The doors are like a rust-red color with thousands of perforated holes. And you look outside, and you don’t see nothing but a gray wall,” says Brian Nelson, a former Tamms inmate. “My biggest fear is that this is all happening in my head, and I am going to wake up and I’m in that cell. And that scares the s--- out of me.” Nelson has been paroled and now works as a paralegal in Chicago. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue November 1, 2011

End and Means: Overcrowded and Understaffed, Illinois Prisons Are in Crisis

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The litany was depressingly familiar: overcrowded, understaffed, with limited access to medical and psychiatric treatment, rehabilitative services, education and jobs for inmates.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue February 1, 2011

Prison Education: The Percentage of Inmates Who Are Involved in Educational Programming is Dropping

Female inmates at the Decatur Correctional Center in August receive certificates from Richland Community College
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Lori Williams spent 18 months in a state prison on a drug conviction. But the 49-year-old Macon County resident says her time behind bars in the late 1990s didn’t go to waste.

While serving her sentence at the Decatur Correctional Center, Williams set her sights on emerging from this dark period by taking advantage of the educational programs offered at the all-female facility.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue September 1, 2009

State of the State: A Lengthy Audit Highlights Problems in Prisons That Have Been Growing for Years

Bethany Jaeger
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn plans to lay off as many as 1,000 prison workers at the same time a recent state audit reveals that staffing shortages within the Illinois Department of Corrections contributed to mounting overtime costs.

The price of workers putting in extra hours spiked from $19.2 million to $37 million in fiscal years 2007 to 2008. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon January 1, 2007

Women in Prison: Mothers can learn to parent from behind bars but they'll still have to go home

Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

"It's not enough to train somebody to be a good  inmate,'' she says. "You must translate those skills into them becoming a model citizen."

More than 2,200 women in Illinois' prison system left children at home last year while they served time. That's about 80 percent of the female prison population, most of which comes from the Chicago area. While relatives care for the kids, many of those moms are learning to parent by phone, by letter or by teleconference.

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