IDOC Partners with “Vera” to Map Out a New Direction for Illinois Prisons

Chicago – The Illinois Department of Corrections continued on its path to outline a plan for addressing prison segregation issues with the guidance of the nationally recognized experts at the Vera Institute of Justice. The goal is to reduce prisoner isolation and create a “best practices” model for IDOC’s segregation population at no cost to IDOC through the use of grant funding.

In this round, Vera experts visited three Illinois prisons that confront segregation issues on a daily basis; Tamms CC, Menard CC and Stateville CC. They spoke with wardens, staff and inmates, toured facilities and reviewed policies and procedures. Vera Institute of Justice Dr. Angela Browne says “Reasons for sentencing to segregation, duration of sentence, and special dynamics like mental health issues are all factored into understanding and mapping out a long term plan for dealing with the segregation population in the IDOC system.

Read more here: Illinois.gov – Illinois Government News Network IGNN – Search the News Results.

Report: Illinois Budget Crisis Worst in Nation

A new study released today Tuesday says Illinois’ financial situation is worse than any other state in the country.

The preliminary report by the National Conference of State Legislatures showed Illinois closed its last fiscal year in worse shape than any other state.

And predictions for the future aren’t so good, either.

Illinois is one of only two states projecting a deficit for the end of the current fiscal year, as well.

Despite a gaping budget shortfall, Illinois is planning to boost its spending this year by 15.1 percent, according to the study.

David Merriman heads the economics department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

MERRIMAN: We’re in deep trouble. In terms of how do we get out of it, it’s going to be a multi-year process. That multi-year process is going to involve more revenue and cuts in services. And hopefully some economic growth will help, you know, resolve the issue.

Illinois is also predicting a 17.9 percent uptick in revenue collection for fiscal year 2011, which Merriman says is simply wishful thinking. The study calls the state’s budget situation is “tenuous at best.”

via City Room™ – Politics – Report: Illinois Budget Crisis Worst in Nation.

Quinn veto would allow disclosure of public employee evaluations

Most public employee performance evaluations could be made public under an amendatory veto issued Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn’s change to House Bill 5154 would exempt only state and local law enforcement personnel from the requirement that performance evaluations be public information.

The bill originally would have exempted performance evaluations of all public employees from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Quinn said that went too far.

Read more:  Quinn veto would allow disclosure of public employee evaluations – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.

Federal judge orders hearings for Tamms inmates – Breaking news – bnd.com

A federal judge has ruled that even inmates termed the “worst of the worst” by state prison system officials have a constitutional right to a hearing before they are sent to what many consider the harshest prison in Illinois — the solitary only Tamms Correctional Center.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Patrick Murphy, sitting in federal court in East St. Louis, has ruled that all inmates transferred to Tamms, the state’s only supermax prison, must be given a swift hearing and told why they are being sent to the lockup, where most prisoners spend 23 hours a day in their cells and are let out only to walk alone in a steel cage.

And all inmates currently at the prison must be given the same type of hearing, which must allow them an opportunity to challenge their transfer.

Read more here:  Federal judge orders hearings for Tamms inmates – Breaking news – bnd.com.

Daily Herald | DOC fights Brady’s push for prisoner picture legislation

The Illinois Department of Corrections is fighting back against Republican governor hopeful Bill Brady’s push for his opponent to sign legislation that would create an online photo gallery of prisoners released early.

Several of the legislation’s stipulations – including posting photos and pertinent information for prisoners released early – have been in place since 1999, said Sharyn Elman, the department’s chief public information officer.

“We have it, we’ve already been doing it. I don’t want to get into politics, but it seems like posturing,” she said Thursday.

The legislation, approved by lawmakers in April, would require photographs and identification information – including name, aliases, birth date, physical characteristics, address, offense and county of conviction – to be placed on the corrections department website within three days of an inmate’s release. The information would not be removed until the end of the prisoner’s first year of mandatory supervised release or his return to custody.

As the legislation would only apply to inmates released in the future, Brady called for Quinn to “voluntarily post pictures” of prisoners released late last year.Elman pointed out that pictures of those inmates can already be found by doing a search of their names on the department’s website.

via Daily Herald | DOC fights Brady’s push for prisoner picture legislation.

Wis. man attempts drive-by shooting, forgets to roll down car window

Sometimes I’m just speechless by how incredibly stupid some people can be. And then 2 words come to mind: JOB SECURITY!

Drive-by shooting epic fail: Forgetting to roll down your car window before you start shooting from the driver’s seat. Whoops.

Andrew J. Burwitz, 20, of Appleton, Wis., allegedly tried to do a drive-by shooting at the home of his ex-girlfriend’s family and another random house. Police found him because he failed to roll down his car window and shattered it when he made the first shot.

via Wis. man attempts drive-by shooting, forgets to roll down car window – Minneapolis / St. Paul News – The Blotter.

Police FAIL

The Cost of Prison Overcrowding | John Howard Association of Illinois

At a time when most states are reducing their prison populations, Illinois has seen a record increase.

In the past year, Illinois has added almost 2,000 inmates to its prisons, bringing its total population as of July 7 to 47,519, a new high for the state. (Source: Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC))

Read more:  The Cost of Prison Overcrowding | John Howard Association of Illinois.

Convention 2010: Tribute to Bill Lucy

Overtime cuts key in prison budget plan

SPRINGFIELD — Officials are finally starting to offer up some details about how they plan to tackle Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to cut nearly $42 million from the state prison budget.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said Thursday that the agency is hiring about 838 new prison guards this fiscal year in order to reduce skyrocketing overtime costs at the agency.

That’s more information than Elman offered just two days ago, when she said the agency was still “formulating” its management plan with the governor’s budget office.

A story Thursday by the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau noted that overtime reductions would not apply to employees who are in labor unions, such as correctional officers.

Not so, said Elman. “We are reducing the overtime. We’re definitely upping the staffing,” she said.

The new officers hired in coming fiscal year will replace guards who have left for various reasons and weren’t replaced.

By hiring new guards at lower salaries, the agency hopes to reduce overall overtime costs and produce a savings to the cash-strapped state.

“The new correctional officers graduating from the academy are replacing approximately 650 retiring officers who on average earn significantly more than our base starting salary,” Elman noted Thursday.

Cuts at the department are part of a $1.4 billion package of spending reductions announced by Quinn last week.

Under an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents a majority of workers in the prison system, Quinn said he would not lay off workers or close any facilities.

That left ballooning overtime costs as a primary target for potential savings.

“The only way to reduce overtime costs is to hire adequate staff,” said AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Corrections estimates overtime costs were about $55 million, down from $63 million the previous year.

Overtime cuts key in prison budget plan.