Quinn Suspends Early Prison Release Program

Not a "meritorious good time" to be Governor

Uh, just kidding?

Gov. Pat Quinn has suspended a program that allowed hundreds of inmates -- including drunk drivers, battery and weapons violators -- to be released early on good behavior, but evaded the question put to him at least five times on Monday about whether or not he knew about it. 

"When I learned of all that was involved it was suspended right away," Quinn said.  "I gave my directors broad incentives to carry out, but public safety comes first."

The governor has ordered a full review of the Illinois Department of Corrections' "meritorious good time" release program, which was scrutinized after an Associated Press report showed some scofflaws spent mere weeks behind bars, says the Chicago Tribune.

More than 850 inmates have been released under the program since September.

The good-credit program is separate from a policy previously announced by Quinn to release 1,000 nonviolent offenders near to their one-year sentence mark.

Quinn's critics were quick to heap scorn.

"I don't know what's worse, whether he knew about it and actually implemented it, or if he didn't know about it, and that somebody under his administration is making policy decisions that are the wrong ones and are done in secret," said Dan Hynes, who is challenging Quinn in February's gubernatorial primary.

The Willie Horton image -- the inmate released who then raped a woman -- scared Michael Dukakis' president campaign.  And just last month, and Arkansas inmate released early shot and killed four police officers in the state of Washington. 

Still, some say there is merit to releasing non-violent offenders.

"It's already raised the hackles of people who are saying, 'Let's not let anybody out,' and if we follow that logic, we could end up like Texas or California with extreme overcrowding that leads to danger in our existing prisons," said Charlie Fosano, the director of the Prisons and Jails program with the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog organization.

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