Quinn: Illinois prisons are not overcrowded

August 30, 2013

WBEZ/Steve Bynum
Governor Pat Quinn discussing prisons on Friday at WBEZ.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn insists the state prison system is not overcrowded despite the fact that there are about 49,000 inmates in facilities built for 32,000 people. In addition,  programming dollars are stretched thin, which leaves vast numbers of inmates idle for most of the day.

“I feel that the prisons of our state, and every other state frankly, are crowded,” said Quinn in an hour-long interview on prisons Friday on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift.  “In Illinois we have an adequate number of beds to handle the inmates we have.”

But Illinois spends 98 percent of its budget just housing the inmates, leaving little money for education or job training. Quinn says he’d obviously like to bring down the prison population because it costs more than $20,000 a year to house each inmate.

Quinn says he takes a hands-off approach to running the Department of Corrections. Quinn told Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo that he didn’t know when he’d last been in a prison.

“I can’t remember that,” Quinn said. “I basically appointed Tony Godinez to be the director of corrections and I tell him to do his job. I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s been  someone who’s been in corrections for a long time.”

Illinois spends more than a billion dollars every year on the department. Quinn also said he does not have a 5-year plan for the Department of Corrections. He says they make a plan every year when they develop the budget and when he gives his State of the State address. While Quinn would not say Illinois’ prison system is overcrowded, he did say the state and country need to have a debate about sentencing and how prisons are used.

Listen to excerpts from the hour-long interview

Speaking on the Afternoon Shift Friday on WBEZ with host Niala Boodhoo and Criminal and Legal Affairs reporter Robert Wildeboer, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn insisted the Illinois prison system is not overcrowded.

Quinn said reducing recidivism is key to bringing down the population in the Department of Corrections so that the state is not housing so many repeat offenders.

Quinn said he takes a hands-off approach to the billion-dollar Department of Corrections.

Quinn said Illinois is part of a ongoing conversation in the United States looking at sentencing and how prisons are used.