SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - New state data show that the number of people incarcerated in Illinois prisons has fallen in recent years but the state’s facilities remain overcrowded.
The most recent report on Illinois Department of Corrections facilities shows the agency held 47,483 inmates in May 2015. That’s the lowest since May 2010 when the department reported 47,150 inmates behind bars. The peak was in January 2013 with 49,321 inmates, the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported (https://bit.ly/1Iy2izv ).
The state prison system’s facilities are designed to house 32,000 prisoners.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has asked a special committee to study how to reduce the Illinois prison population by 25 percent over the next decade. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform is scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday in Chicago.
“A reduced prison population not only saves taxpayer dollars but it also promotes a safer prison environment and builds opportunity for stronger communities,” Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said.
Officials attribute the drop to a program enacted under former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn that awards inmates for good behavior. Quinn launched the program after he canceled a controversial early prisoner release program.
Officials also say the drop in prison population may be because the number of prisoners that county judges are sending to state prisons has dropped. IDOC statistics show that of Illinois’ 102 counties all but 21 are sending fewer inmates to state prison.
Statistics show that 27,400 inmates entered state prisons in 2009. In the most recent fiscal year that number has fallen to 19,600.
Rauner’s commission recently released a report stating that there needs to be a balance between sending too many people to prison and making sure the public is safe. The commission also has said the state needs to improve parole services and prison educational programs to reduce the inmate population.
Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com
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