WSIL TV • Prison Population At All Time High

Illinois prisons are bursting at the seams with a record high of nearly 49 thousand inmates. That’s three thousand more than last year. And it has more to do with politics than crime.

Governor Pat Quinn cancelled the secret release program earlier this year when it became public. More than 1,700 inmates were released early, more than 100 of them violent offenders.

But the governor also cancelled the Meritorious Good Time program, or MGT, which has been in place for three decades.

Not only are the state’s prisons more crowded, they’re even more violent. According to the union representing prison guards, with fewer staff watching more inmates there has been a spike in attacks on guards and other inmates.

Read the full article here: WSIL TV • Prison Population At All Time High.

Illinois prison population surges to record high – Chicago Tribune

Hard time has gotten even harder in Illinois prisons.

The states prison system is bursting at the seams with a record high of nearly 49,000 inmates, some 3,000 more than just a year ago. The surge, combined with the states multibillion-dollar budget crisis, has led to conditions that watchdog groups and veteran correctional officers say they havent seen since a population crisis in the 1980s prompted the state to build three new prisons.

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.

Guards say overcrowding provides fewer disciplinary options — some prisons have been pressed into holding problem inmates in “segregation” in the same areas as regular inmates. Overcrowding also leads to more inmate assaults on staff, guards say.

With the Illinois Department of Corrections about $95 million behind on its bills, many prison vendors havent been paid for months. In some cases, fed-up contractors have stopped extending credit to prisons, causing shortages that have led wardens to barter among themselves to stay stocked with essential items like paper goods and soap.

Read the full article here: Illinois prison population surges to record high – Chicago Tribune.

State wants felon to pay for incarceration –

Philip Snow paid his debt to society by serving four years in the state prison system for attacking a senior citizen

Now, roughly five years since his release, the Illinois Department of Corrections wants Snow to pay $82,800, a bill that includes the care and services he received while behind bars.

Although Michigan and other states have become aggressive in going after felons for their incarceration expenses, such a move is a rarity in cash-strapped Illinois.

Officials say they believe Snow is one of the few felons to have the means to pay for his time in the Joliet, Shawnee, Dixon and East Moline correctional centers. A section of the Illinois Unified Code of Corrections is being used in the attempt to get the cash from Snow.

Read the full article here: State wants felon to pay for incarceration –

Pundits drawing wrong conclusions from election results – AFSCME Council 31

The politicians and the pundits are busy analyzing the meaning of the recent election, sifting through the data to pick out facts that reinforce their pre-conceptions.

Mostly they don’t like to challenge their own assumptions so I thought that perhaps I would do it for them.

One article of faith among both liberal and conservative observers is that voters were motivated by intense hostility to taxes. But our experience here in Illinois tells a different story.

Read the full article here: Pundits drawing wrong conclusions from election results – AFSCME Council 31.

Lee A. Saunders: America’s Failed 401(k) Experiment

While the unfunded pension liabilities in many public retirement funds have received an inordinate amount of attention, the larger retirement deficit of most Americans is not generating the level of concern that it deserves. Individuals who have been left on their own to save for retirement in 401(k) accounts face challenges that are not being met. As a result of the financial crash that led to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the retirement savings of most baby boomers — which were already inadequate — were reduced to levels that may create genuine impoverishment as the boomers retire and enter their 70s.

Read the full article here: Lee A. Saunders: America’s Failed 401(k) Experiment.

Job-saving measure signed into law – AFSCME Council 31

The U.S. House has passed and President Obama has signed a bill that will give Illinois $1 billion in federal funds to preserve vital public services and save thousands of jobs of public servants who provide them — including teachers, police and firefighters, caregivers and more.

School districts and state and local governments will get an infusion of federal funding to help prevent massive layoffs and service cuts. The bill was strongly backed by AFSCME members, who made thousands of phone calls and emails, attended rallies across the country, and mobilized their families and neighbors to do the same.

“This bill saves jobs and preserves the vital public services that Illinois residents need now more than ever,” Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said. “It will strengthen our state’s economy and improve the life of average working people.”

via Job-saving measure signed into law – AFSCME Council 31.

AFSCME fights back with facts vs. pension onslaught – AFSCME Council 31

Debating corporate lawyer R. Eden Martin on WBBM radio’s “At Issue” program, AFSCME’s Hank Scheff exposed what the Chicago Sun-Times called “exaggeration and gross simplification” by Big Business millionaires–and their so-called “Illinois Is Broke” front group–who want to slash the modest pensions of public employees.

Listen to the debate here: AFSCME fights back with facts vs. pension onslaught – AFSCME Council 31.

Public employees: The 21st century’s welfare queens

America’s public employees educate our kids, fight our fires, make sure our food isn’t tainted with toxic swill, provide services to the neediest and perform a thousand other vital tasks that the private sector has no incentive to do. They earn less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts with similar qualifications. None become billionaires.

But the government doesn’t engage in the kind of ruthless and relentless union-busting that corporate America has used in a 30-year campaign that’s made it all but impossible for private sector workers to organize. That explains, in part, why public workers toil in the last sector of the U.S. economy where people enjoy some job security, good health care and the prospect of a dignified retirement.

Now, an energized conservative movement has public sector workers in its cross-hairs.

Jonathan Cohn, writing in The New Republic, called public employees “the new welfare queens,” an easy target for the right’s politics of resentment. And the comparison is apt. Just as there were a few welfare recipients gaming the system and living the high-life back when conservatives began to demonize them, a very small number of public sector employees — mostly the cops and firefighters to whom politicos don’t dare say no (and who work a lot of pricey overtime) — have won lavish retirement packages. Those rather specialized workers are then held up as an example of both the perfidy of “big government” and the unbridled greed of public-sector unions

Read the full article here: Public employees: The 21st century’s welfare queens.

House votes to keep state worker personnel evaluations private – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

The Illinois House voted Tuesday that public employee personnel evaluations could not be disclosed under the state Freedom of Information Act.

The House, by a 77-36 vote, overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the legislation. Quinn sought to alter the bill so that only the evaluations of police officers were barred from disclosure.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but disclosure supporters thought their best chance to stop an override was in the House.

“We’re determining a strategy to work against an override in the Senate,” said Cara Smith, public access counselor for Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “There were only nine ‘no’ votes in the Senate.”

The Illinois Press Association, media outlets across the state and Attorney General Lisa Madigan have said the proposal represents a step backward from the FOIA reforms that passed in 2009.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees argues public employees have a right to privacy when it comes to performance evaluations.

Read the full article here: House votes to keep state worker personnel evaluations private – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.

2-tiered pensions proposed for police, firefighters – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

A bill that would reduce pension benefits for local public safety workers hired after Jan. 1 could move out of a legislative committee Wednesday, but mayors and unions representing police and firefighters still disagree on what should be in the bill.

The Pension Fairness Coalition, which includes mayors from suburban Chicago and downstate who want to reduce benefits for future police officers and firefighters, predicted layoffs, deep service cuts and even possible municipal bankruptcies if the legislature does not act.

Legislative staff members are drafting language that will be inserted in Senate Bill 3538, said Mark Fowler, a spokesman for the Pension Fairness Coalition.

The legislation is sponsored by state Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, and Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago. The new language was unavailable Tuesday. McCarthy did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Read the full article here:  2-tiered pensions proposed for police, firefighters – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.