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State of the State is about the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government. Written by Brian Mackey, the blog focuses on key areas of news important to Illinois such as criminal justice and labor.

Illinois Prison Boom Rooted in '70s Fear

Las Vegas in the 1970s
Following political assassinations, urban riots and a general rise in crime, a culture of fear took hold across America in the 1960s and '70s.

The politics of "tough on crime" were born of a culture of fear in the 1960s and '70s. In Illinois, that was exemplified by the public statements of then-Gov. Dan Walker, who both described aspects of Illinois prisons that are still problems today, while at the same time arguing for policies that would leave Illinois’ criminal justice drastically overcrowded.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has formed a commission that's supposed to figure out how to safely reduce Illinois' prison population by 25 percent over ten years. We'll hear from two criminal justice on that commission: David Olson, a professor of criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, and Kathryn Saltmarsh, a lawyer who heads the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council.

For a (somewhat) #longread on Illinois' crowded prisons, see also my column from the June edition of Illinois Issues magazine: "Past Decisions Echo Through Time in Prison Debate."

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Music in this episode includes "The Falls" by Podington Bear. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-3.0 license, via WFMU's Free Music Archive.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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