Two days after a Republican-initiated panel held its first meeting to investigate a secret and controversial prisoner early-release program, the Governor released a report on the program, according to Senator Tim Bivins, who is serving on that panel.
The Illinois Joint Investigatory Panel on Early Release met August 11 in Peoria. The panel selected that community, in part, because of the murder of a Peoria grandmother in May. The man accused of the crime had been a prisoner and participant in the controversial Meritorious Good Time Push (MGT-Push) program.The panel first offered a brief review of the history of the controversy, and recounted efforts dating back to January to obtain information about the ill-fated program.Although Governor Pat Quinn appointed former Judge David Erickson of the Cook County Circuit Court in December 2009 to conduct a review of release practices, a report still had not been released eight months later. However, two days after the panel’s first meeting, the Governor released the report August 13.
Among those testifying at the hearing August 11 were local police and sheriffs, along with several crime victims and crime victim advocacy groups. All participants expressed concern about the implementation of the early-release program, and urged officials to be more discriminatory when deciding which prisoners will receive early release.“In Peoria County, we right now have over 500 paroled people in our area,” said Peoria County Sheriff Michael McCoy. “We don’t know how many of them have been on the MGT records, we don’t know who they are, we don’t know where they live, or where they came from….When people are released early from prison and we don’t know they’re out, that greatly hinders our investigations.”“When a victim hears a sentence, they assume a certain piece of mind for that period of time. And a lot of victims lost that earlier this year,” said Terry Mayborne, President of IllinoisVictims.org, a victims’ rights organization.Though invited to attend, no representatives from the Quinn Administration or the Department of Corrections were present. However, several local Democrat lawmakers did attend the hearing, which Republican panel members said shows that questions and concerns relating to the MGT Push program cross party lines.The MGT Push program was an initiative of the Quinn Administration. Initially, the Administration announced plans to release 1,000 non-violent inmates who had less than a year left of their sentences. The first program was anticipated to save the state $5 million. It was later revealed in media reports that the Administration had actually implemented two early-release programs: one publicized program, and a secret MGT Push program, which granted good-time credit to almost 2,000 inmates, including violent offenders.Once the MGT Push program was made public, the secret program was suspended. However, many questions still surround the implementation of the MGT Push program and who is responsible for the misguided policy.The Governor also signed a number of other bills into law this week. Senator Bivins said he does not support each and every measure, but lists the legislation and a brief summary to keep central Illinois citizens informed.Legislation signed into law this week includes:All-Terrain Vehicles (HB 6094/P.A. 96-1434): Allows all-terrain vehicles to be operated on county and township roads for farming purposes.Chicago Public Schools Violence Hotline (HB 4647): Requires the Chicago Board of Education to establish a telephone hot-line for anonymous calls that may prevent violence in Chicago public schools.Corporate Accountability (HB 5230/P.A. 96-1429): Provides that a recipient of multiple development assistance agreements in the same award year, and for a single project site, may file a consolidated progress report if the applicant's base number of employees and number of jobs to be created and retained as stated in the multiple development assistance agreements or applications are the same.Credit History Discrimination (HB 4658/P.A. 96-1426): Prevents an employer from inquiring about an applicant’s or employee’s credit history; refusing to hire or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or condition because of the individual’s credit history or credit report; or order or obtain an applicant or employee’s credit report from a consumer reporting agency.
Defendant Failure to Appear (HB 5494/P.A. 96-1431): Requires a $75 fee to be assessed against a defendant who fails to appear on an offense charge as required by the court when an arrest warrant was issued for the defendant, with $70 of the assessment going to the law enforcement agency that arrests the defendant on the arrest warrant and $5 to the Circuit Clerk.
Documentation Fraud (HB 5749/P.A. 96-1432): Raises the penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony for a deceptive practice when a person with an intent to defraud causes another, by deception or threat, to execute a document disposing of property, or a document by which a monetary obligation is incurred, when the property in a single transaction exceeds $150 or separate transactions over 90 days exceeds $150.
Elder Abuse (HB 4928/P.A. 96-1428): Allows a closed meeting for an elder abuse fatality review team’s review of a death in which elder abuse or neglect is alleged, suspected or substantiated.
Public Employee Disability Suits (HB 5458/P.A. 96-1430): Allows the state to commence or join in a suit against a third party that’s liable for injuries that trigger the payment for occupational disability benefits to an eligible public employee, concerning correctional workers and state employees working in penal institutions, or mental health or developmental disabilities facilities operated by the Department of Human Services.
Public Health Technical Material (HB 6034/P.A. 96-1433): Requires the Department of Public Health to provide technical assistance materials based on guidelines or standards such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's guidelines, the U.S. Access Board final guidelines, or the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials by June 30, 2011.
Retirement Board of Municipal Employees (HB 4788/P.A. 96-1427): Allows the Chicago Treasurer, with approval of the Retirement Board of Municipal Employees, to designate a city employee to act in the absence of the Treasurer on administering the provisions of the pension article.
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