Will reform of Illinois’ prisons continue?

The John Howard Association of Illinois regrets Michael Randle’s resignation and wishes him well as he leaves his position as the director of Illinois Department of Corrections.

In his 15-month tenure, Director Randle fought to reform the Department’s outdated and inefficient infrastructure. He brought in outside evaluators such as the American Correctional Association and the Vera Institute to assess the Department’s processes, policies, and procedures. And he worked effectively with community groups to improve prison conditions and reduce recidivism.

JHA hopes the next director will display this same vision and courage, as he or she confronts the significant challenges Illinois’ prison system poses.

In 2009, taxpayers spent more than $1 billion on state prisons, with an average cost of almost $25 thousand an inmate.

Given recent trends, this cost is likely to increase. In the past year, Illinois has added more than two thousand inmates to its prisons, bringing its total population as of September 1 to 47,751, a record high for the state.

It would be some comfort if this money increased public safety, but that’s not the case. Almost 70 percent of all Illinois inmates are in prison for non-violent crimes and about 50 percent of all offenders serve six months or less. Research shows that when low-level non-violent offenders are incarcerated, they are more likely to commit new crimes once they get out of prison.

The next director should continue to explore safe and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration. He or she should also do more to ensure that inmates receive rehabilitative programming while they are imprisoned.

JHA looks forward to working with the next director to achieve these critical goals.

If you have questions, contact: John Maki, Coordinating Director, office: 312-503-6305, cell: 773-805-7716, email: johnemaki@gmail.com