Illinois Prisons Becomes Topic In Governor's Race

Oct 1, 2014

A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor will face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment — and wants to know where the candidates stand.

Credit John Howard Association of Illinois

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49,000 people in a system designed to hold 32,000. Association Director John Maki, no relation, says unless Illinois starts getting that under control, a lawsuit could force the state to release prisoners, like happened in California.

“There’s two choices here: either we find ourselves in federal court, or we reduce the prison population through smart and safe changes in law and policy."
--- John Maki, John Howard Association Director

Some of the changes he’s recommending include reducing penalties for non-violent drug offenses, giving inmates more ways to earn time off their sentences, and giving judges more discretion over what are currently mandatory prison terms.

Maki says the problem cannot be solved without the leadership of whoever is governor next year.