- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner named his second prisons director in six months Friday, tabbing a retired Iowa corrections director to take control of the troubled, sprawling Illinois system for a conservative governor who wants to see criminal justice reform.

John Baldwin retired in January as director of the Iowa Department of Corrections after a career spanning more than three decades. He takes over the $150,000 job from Donald Stolworthy, a former federal law enforcement officer who took the job in March and abruptly quit in June.

The 65-year-old Baldwin was at the helm in the Hawkeye state for eight years - an eternity in the rough-and-tumble world of Illinois prison politics. He oversaw a system with 4,000 prison guards and 38,000 inmates.

Even though he’s the second director, Baldwin takes over early in the first year of a governor who has already formed a justice-reform group ordered to find a way to reduce the prison population by 25 percent. Commission member Kwame Raoul, a Democratic state senator from Chicago, said he hopes Baldwin is interested in more than just inmate numbers.

“You could be interested in strictly reducing the population but you could also be interested, since we have this opportunity, in comprehensive change - how do we make people better?” Raoul said.

Illinois’ correctional complex expanded in the 1980s with new sentencing laws which pumped the state budget to over $1 billion a year by the early part of the century, although there’s been little growth since because of continuing fiscal crises. The population ballooned to nearly 50,000 inmates in space originally designed for 32,000, although the number of incarcerations dropped to a five-year low this spring.

Past corrections directors have gone to prison for corruption and resigned under a cloud after a 2010 program to grant early release to thousands of inmates - hundreds of them violent - without notifying the public.

Rauner issued a news release about Baldwin’s appointment - which must have Senate concurrence - but did not elaborate on why he chose him. His office did not respond to a request for comment about the governor’s decision to tab Baldwin.

But the administration never gave an explanation for the departure of Stolworthy, a 54-year-old veteran of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The Department of Corrections denied a request by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act for correspondence between Stolworthy and the governor’s office for his last three weeks in the job, despite the AP providing search terms to lessen the burden of finding the appropriate messages. The governor’s office released 18 routine emails that included Stolworthy’s name but claimed the balance of all of the ex-director’s correspondence in May is privileged as “preliminary drafts” or “communications between a public body and an attorney.”

Baldwin began his career in 1983 and served in several administrative positions including handling budgets, personnel and evidence-based practices, or methods that have been scientifically researched and proven to have positive outcomes.

Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison-monitoring group, said she hoped the new director would push for correctional reform.

“It is our hope that an incoming director of the department will have not only reform experience, but be committed to reducing the inmate population through policy changes within the Department’s control,” Vollen-Katz said.


Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide