Clock Ticking On Illinois Prison Crowding

Oct 1, 2014

Credit Dave Nakayama / Flickr (CC-by 2.0)

A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor is going to face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group on Wednesday is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment — and wants to know where the candidates stand.

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49,000 people in a system designed to hold 32,000.

Association Director John Maki says unless Illinois starts getting that under control, a lawsuit could force the state to release prisoners, like happened in California.

“There’s two choices here: either we find ourselves in federal court, or we reduce the prison population through smart and safe changes in law and policy," Maki says.

Some of the changes he’s recommending include reducing penalties for non-violent drug offenses, giving inmates more ways to earn time off their sentences, and giving judges more discretion over what are currently mandatory prison terms.

Maki says the problem cannot be solved without the leadership of whoever is governor next year.

Neither the campaign of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn nor that of Republican Bruce Rauner responded to questions about the association's call to action.

Read the full document at the John Howard Association's website.