Budget woes and election year politics has led to a vastly overcrowded prison system in Illinois. The Tribune reported today that the state's "prison system is bursting at the seams" because "of a backlash against a policy change by Gov. Pat Quinn that allowed the early release of about 1,700 inmates over four months." (Progress Illinois wrote about this troubling increase in the prison population in late October.) The increased population has put added stress on the state's already ailing facilities. From the paper:
Confronted with putting more offenders in the same amount of space, administrators are doubling up every available cell. As many as four inmates are bunked in slightly larger cells intended for two handicapped prisoners. At the intake facility at Stateville near Joliet, incoming inmates regularly sleep on cots in a gymnasium or prison hospital.
Due to political pressure, Quinn suspended Meritorious Good Time (MGT), the state's early release program, as well as his administration's accelerated MGT Push program, which was implemented to reduce the number of short-term prisoners within the system. According to a report by law professor Malcolm Young, nearly all of the criticism Quinn received about the latter program in both the primary and general elections lacked merit.
We should note that the Tribune got into that act as well, calling the program "a big mistake," an "ill-conceived policy" and a "fiasco" without considering the effects its suspension would have on prison capacity statewide. Perhaps the paper's own reporting will lead the Tribune editors to reconsider its positons.