Individuals representing crime victims testified before lawmakers and witnesses who gathered at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago for the August 25 meeting, as they had done at the Panel’s first meeting August 11 in Peoria. They discussed the impact on victims and their families when a violent offender is released early. A representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) raised concerns that individuals convicted of drunk and drugged driving are often considered prime candidates for early release even though they are often among those with the greatest risk for repeat offenses.
Inmate advocates cautioned lawmakers not to completely eliminate meritorious good time programs and included witnesses who took advantage of rehabilitation programs while in prison to turn their lives around.
BIRKETT: MAKE PUBLIC SAFETY THE TOP PRIORITY
DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett also testified at the August 25 meeting in Chicago.
He cautioned lawmakers to make public safety the top priority when considering any prisoner early-release program. Any inmate who is released early without having clearly demonstrated a clear commitment to rehabilitation is a “high-risk” release, he warned.
Birkett said it was clear from the timing of prisoner releases that occurred under the controversial Meritorious Good Time (MGT Push) Program, that the Department of Corrections released criminals before they could have possibly received information on the prisoners from local prosecutors and law enforcement personnel.
He also recommended that any guidelines or criteria that are adopted as a result of the scandal should be made public, so that state’s attorneys, local police and victims know what the criteria for early release will be.
Birkett added that Corrections’ officials never consulted him, and he has been unable to identify any other state’s attorneys who were consulted before the early releases began.
PANEL WILL USE FEEDBACK TO DEVELOP LEGISLATION
The Panel plans to use the feedback from the meetings to develop a legislative package to address the concerns raised by both witness testimony and the Erickson Report.