Quinn signs new prisoner early-release law

Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday signed a measure into law that revives good time credit for non-violent offenders who complete drug treatment, job training or rehabilitation programs while behind bars.

The move comes more than two years after Quinn suspended similar early release programs after it was discovered that thousands of inmates had been released from prison after serving only a few weeks in prison.

The issue became a major flash point in the 2010 Democratic primary election, and was revived that fall by Republican challenger Sen. Bill Brady, who lost to Quinn by less than a percentage point.

The new law would require inmates to spend at least 60 days in prison before they could be released for good time credit, which would be added on top of routine day-for-day credit inmates already earn.

Inmates could earn no more than 180 days of good time credit.

In signing the law, Quinn said the measure will help control the growing prison population while encouraging prisoners to pursue rehabilitation so they are less likely to commit crimes in the future.

Opponents say there are not enough protections to prevent violent offenders from being released.

Sponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the law gives the corrections director the ability to look at an offenders’ entire record before authorizing release.

Raoul said the provision acts as a safeguard because there are indicators beyond a prison sentence that can help determine if someone is a risk to the public.

“We have to be a little more sophisticated in how we assess these risks,” Raoul said.

Raoul acknowledged the political sensitivity of releasing prisoners early, but said officials should not sacrifice good public policy to fear.

mcgarcia@tribune.com

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