Thoughts from Steven Scotti on why Illinois needs a parole system

If you were to walk into any prison cell in the state you would quickly notice one thing. Although there are two inmates in this room, it was clearly only DESIGNED for one: there is only ONE desk, or only ONE chair, to maybe only ONE shelf to put your stuff. Every cell in the Illinois Department of Corrections is holding ONE more inmate than it was designed to hold. [Note from Parole Illinois: Some Illinois prison cells have two persons but no chair, no desk, and no shelf.]

If you speak with the staff, they will TELL you they are under staffed. If you talk with the inmates, they will TELL you there are too many inmates. Depending on which side of the fence you are on, you could either see this from the perspective of being understaffed, or the perspective of being over populated!!

The Illinois Department of Corrections currently holds double the capacity of inmates than it was DESIGNED to hold. With the recidivism rate well over 50%,

Is it really hard to understand how we got here? Not at all…

I think what you would find in most Illinois prisons is the same thing. On one hand, we DO see inmates being released. But if they ARE being released, WHY then, are the numbers of incarcerated men and women in Illinois still increasing?

I think it has to do with people we are CHOOSING to release. For the large majority of the people in the Department of corrections, their TYPE of sentence is what is referred to as DETERMINATE SENTENCING. After a convicted person is sentenced, he or she is sentenced to serve a predetermined amount of time in prison. After completion of that DETERMINATE sentence he or she is AUTOMATICALLY released into society.

The problem we are experiencing is this. For every person we release in this manner, one is re-entering the system. WHY?? Why for every one person we release, is one re-offending and coming back into the system that was designed and responsible to correct them?

The problem with determinate sentencing is this. It determines that a person will be RELEASED…. It does NOT determine if they are REHABILITATED…. it doesn’t determine if they did anything measurable within their incarceration to CHANGE!! When you doing NOTHING MORE than DETERMINE that a person will leave the system, you are doing nothing more than randomly releasing inmates!! If you are still asking WHY our system is broken, why recidivism is over 50%, THIS is the reason why.

Parole is NOT a system of early release. It is a system of RESPONSIBLE RELEASE!! It is a system that EVERY SINGLE INMATE gets a independent evaluation before he or she is released from prison. And if they have not USED their incarceration to meet the goals of society, of the system… then THEY DO NOT LEAVE PRISON!! Parole is a system that SOCIETY, THE TAX PAYERS OF THE STATE, THE SYSTEM ITSELF, DETERMINES if the goals have been met… NOT some predetermined number that was determined by a court that has not has any post contact with a criminal defendant in years or possibly decades!!

How do we release inmates and determine if the goals of the system has been met, if we have not even checked in with the inmate to SEE HOW they have spent their incarceration they were given??

When society sentences someone to prison, we send them there with a penological goal in mind. There is nothing about determinate sentencing that allows us to measure what, if anything, that person has done to meet that goal.

When we recognize as a society, as a system, that something is not working, we need to abandon it. We owe ourselves, as a society, as tax payers, as inmates, not, only the chance, but the obligation to be and do something better.

Parole is not what we we’re doing…. it is what we SHOULD be doing. It is what WORKS. We have already DETERMINED what doesn’t!! We pay over a BILLION DOLLARS a year to fund failure. We are going to release inmates…. let’s own our RESONSIBILITY and DUTY to release them responsibly.