Springfield - September 12, 2013 - As Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, I have a solemn duty to protect the public while doing everything possible to ensure that people who are incarcerated in Illinois, if eligible, have a successful reentry into society.
I take great pride in many of the important steps we have taken in recent years, including the Supplemental Sentence Credit (SSC), which is often editorialized about. Unfortunately, many commentators or editorial writers fail to include many key facts and other information.
Often left out is that only nonviolent offenders are eligible for the SSC program. Some feel the program exists to “clear out space” in Illinois prisons. The program is primarily intended for population management--it gives inmates added incentive for good behavior. And it works.
Population reduction is among the positive results of SSC, but it is important to know not every offender who qualifies gets credit toward early release. In fact, more than 80 percent of eligible inmates have been denied SSC.
Most important, of 1,754 parolees (despite more than 9,000 eligible) with SSC, only approximately 1 percent have returned to prison. We find any death a tragedy, but the effectiveness of the program is clear.
Why is this recidivism rate so low? Because every individual is carefully reviewed by six experienced corrections professionals, including wardens and the Chief Public Safety Officer of the Illinois Department of Corrections. What some have actually called “rolls of the dice” are really cautiously and meticulously examined decisions.
The General Assembly passed the program with very strong bipartisan support, and the bill was crafted with significant input by Judge David Erickson, prosecutors, advocates and the public. The Senate vote was 55-1. This is good public safety and criminal justice policy that makes non-violent offenders less likely to commit crime in the future.
A few opponents of such programs claim there is no such thing as safe early release. Such occasional claims are proven untrue by the approximately 99 percent of SSC recipients who are following the program’s rules. No crime is a result of someone’s freedom. It results from human choices during that freedom. IDOC awards SSC time (from a few weeks to five or six months) to only the best candidates to properly value that freedom. Again, no violent offender has been released under SSC.
Supplemental Sentence Credit, supported by many members of both parties in the General Assembly, by judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and the IDOC, should not be misrepresented by failing to consider critical facts and information.
Salvador A. Godinez
Director, Illinois Department of Corrections