More transparency, communications from IDOC and Governor needed on unilateral policy changes

Illinois House Republicans are asking for more transparency and open communications from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Pritzker administration on policy changes and communications regarding prison furloughs or inmates released early during the coronavirus pandemic.

State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville), whose district includes correctional centers in Taylorville and Hillsboro, said inmates released into her district include high-level drug and meth dealers.
“As a co-equal branch of government, we should not have had to learn through news reports that these inmates had been released into the general population,” said Rep. Bourne. “Governor Pritzker, his staff, and Acting Director Jeffreys have ignored our repeated requests for information. None of them has been forthcoming with facts or the rationale behind to their decision-making, and today we renew our request. Additionally, we want to know why the Governor is being so secretive about these furloughs.”

On April 9, 2020, 22 House Republican members sent a letter to IDOC Director Jeffreys laying out their questions and concerns. So far, they have not received a response. In fact, several letters from various members of the House Republican caucus have been sent to the administration and the Department on different subject matters relating to DOC. To date, no answers have been provided to the lawmakers by either the Governor or DOC.

State Rep. Terri Bryant says she has asked the governor and the DOC about the release of undocumented immigrants without notifying local law enforcement officials, why a correctional facility lockdown was not implemented sooner to stop the spread of COVID-19, and what criteria was used to determine the release of more than 1300 Department of Corrections offenders.

“The people of Illinois have the right to understand the rationale being used by the Pritzker administration in making critical decisions regarding the operations at the IDOC,” Bryant said. “Far from seeking our advice, the Governor has simply ignored requests from members of the General Assembly for more information. As a co-equal branch of government, we have a right and a duty to demand transparency from the governor.”

In the April 9 letter to Jeffreys, House Republicans sought information about the parameters used to decide which inmates qualified for furloughs or early release, the type of oversight that is in place to monitor furloughed inmates, and if victims and communities were notified ahead of time prior to each prisoner’s release. They also asked for a complete list of furloughed offenders and any inmates released early due to coronavirus, and the crimes for which they were serving time.

State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City), whose legislative district includes the Pontiac Correctional Center and is home to several employees of the Danville Correctional Center, also expressed disappointment in the lack of information that has been shared about the early release of hundreds of offenders.

“While the Governor may have executive powers to make unilateral decisions during this time, his administration should be more transparent and forthcoming when they are making decisions that affect the safety of the people and communities of the State of Illinois,” Rep Bennett said.

State Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park), who has worked for more than 20 years as a police officer and detective, suggested the Governor is using the Coronavirus pandemic to further his cause of releasing criminals, many of whom were given multiple chances and received sentences as repeat offenders.

“I will hold Governor Pritzker personally responsible if any of the murderers or other violent felons he has released hurt another person,” said Rep. Cabello. “If they do, I will make it my mission in life to make sure the victims, their families, and the public know that offender was back on the streets and able to victimize them because of Governor JB Pritzker’s actions.”

Read opinion piece written by Rep. Terri Bryant.