Letting inmates out early a necessity in Illinois

John Howard Association Executive Director John Maki is pushing for a return to the Meritorious Good Time program in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The program had been suspended by Gov. Pat Quinn.

April 20, 2012

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WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer

The Illinois prison system was built for 34,000 people and, according to IDOC, on Friday morning there were more than 48,000 inmates.  It’s not a new problem, and it isn’t going away, especially now that the state is slashing budgets for all agencies including the Illinois Department of Corrections. IDOC Assistant Director Gladyse Taylor says their budget is about $1.2 billion and for the last several years they’ve had to cut $100 million every year. She says that’s impacted the programs the prison system offers inmates.

But John Maki with the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association says it's not just the programs that are being affected. He says he’s been appalled by the facilities when he’s visited prisons. “These facilities were so crowded that administrators have no choice but to house hundreds of minimum security inmates in flooded basements and vermin infested dormitories with broken windows, leaking pipes and dilapidated roofs,” says Maki.

Maki says the state needs to bring back Meritorious Good Time. That program, which lets inmates out early, became a political embarrassment for Governor Quinn after some inmates were released just weeks into their sentences.Quinn suspended the program during a heated gubernatorial primary battle against Dan Hynes in 2010. Maki says that suspension has resulted in an extra 3,000 inmates in prison today. He and other advocates are calling for the program to be implemented again.


John Maki joined Tony Sarabia on Eight Forty-Eight Wednesday morning to discuss the suspension of the Meritorious Good Time program and whether or not Gov. Quinn will sign a bill that would create a new early release program.