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Illinois Governor Suspends Early Release Program

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By Kamika Dunlap on December 15, 2009 12:15 PM

Illinois is looking to cut cost and save money. But criminal prosecutors say the early release of prisoners may save money now but undermines the Illinois court system in the long run.

Now the governor has suspended an early release program that had drawn concern from prosecutors.

The state had allowed the early release of repeat drunk drivers, drug users and even people convicted of battery and weapons violations in order to save the state $5 million annually.

The Associated Press reports that it obtained and analyzed information showing at least 850 prisoners spending as little as 14 days total of a year's sentence behind bars since September. Corrections is granting them months of good-conduct time when they enter prison.

Basically, that means that some prisoners have enough good-conduct days to qualify for jail release almost immediately.

Since the AP's investigation, however, Gov. Pat Quinn recently suspended the early release program. Prosecutors criticized the program, saying it undermines work of the Illinois court system.

Corrections was trying to save money during a state budget crisis by not transporting inmates from the processing center to another prison for a short time.

Also, by selling the Thomson Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois, Governor Quinn is looking to further reduce the state's budget deficit.

As previously discussed, if the deal goes through, the nearly empty prison will be converted into the newest federal prison and likely will house terrorist suspects currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Thomson prison was completed in November 2001. It features a 1,600-bed maximum security unit and a 200-bed minimum security wing.

Currently, there are no maximum security inmates housed at the facility, and only 144 in the minimum security wing at a cost of $43,803 per inmate per year.

Both Gov. Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin say the potential sale could help create about 3,000 jobs in the economically depressed area.

But critics have been quick to condemn the prospect of the sale because of safety concerns.

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