Three years ago, a program that allowed state inmates to be released early was sidelined after an Associated Press story garnered outrage when one inmate served only 14 days after a violent attack, only to be released and arrested again for assault. Now, however, Governor Pat Quinn and corrections officials are assuring the public that the early release program will be executed more carefully, balancing the need to reduce the prison population with the need for public safety.
Since the early release program was suspended, state prison populations swelled. Now, there are more than 49,000 people in prisons designed to hold 33,000, according to the Quad City Times. Officials hope they can get this number under control with a new, more cautious release program.
Now, inmates eligible for early release will have to serve at least six months of their sentence. Also, prison directors will be able to use a variety of factors in determining who is eligible for release. This includes an inmate’s potentially violent past, something they weren’t allowed to consider before.
The minimum 60-day prison stay was something that was on the books before, but it was frequently waived by prison officials. Paired with a program that allowed some inmates to get six months good time credit, some were serving a matter of days on a lengthy prison bid. Now, the 60 day requirement is now law and it will not be waived.
Early release programs like this one are used across the country to keep prison populations under control. Many state budgets are strapped and though some states are using smart crime initiatives to reduce prison sentences on the front end, back end solutions are needed too.
The union representing corrections workers is cautious about the new system, concerned the state would eventually like to close more prisons and cut more jobs. However, finding solutions that please everyone is usually impossible, and cutting prison populations is typically the answer that pleases most parties and the greater good.
There are many criminal justice programs designed to lessen the impact of a criminal charge. From deferred prosecution for first time offenders, to probation or early release, not all criminal charges warrant a strict and lengthy sentence.
If you are facing a criminal charge, whether it’s for drugs or a violent offense, we may be able to help. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and the legal options available to you.