“Why Illinois Needs to Bring Back Parole for Determinate Sentences,” Karen McCarron. Parole Illinois Essay-Contest Finalist

Why Illinois Needs to Bring Back Parole for Determinate Sentences

Karen McCarron

The U.S. is the nation that incarcerates more of its population than any other nation, not because we have more criminals or higher morals, but because incarcerating people is a business. Americans are becoming more aware of this fact, but most don’t know what to do about it.

America is ranked with third world communist countries in incarderating its citizens and some say Illinois is one of the worst states to be incarcerated, ranking just above Alabama, not something Illinois should be proud of. One of the reasons that Illinois ranks so poorly is that it lacks a parole system.

Illinois, one of only two states that lack a parole system for those with determinate sentences, causes inmates to serve their entire sentence prior to being seen by the Prisoner Review Board, which then only determines their conditions of Mandatory Supervised Release (MSR). Illinois has thoroughly confused its citizens about (MSR), mistakenly calling it parole. MSR, an esoteric term is not the same as parole. Parole is defined in Webster’s as “the release of a prisoner whose sentence has not expired on condition of future good behavior”. MSR is an additional supervisory punishment set by the judge tacked on to a full prison term and has nothing to do with good behavior.

There is no incentive for positive change within the prisoner or IDOC, currently. Rehabilitated inmates become hopeless serving long sentences with no recognition of their accomplishments. Aggressive and unstable inmates act out in suicide attempts and aggression towards officers as they see that even being a model prison makes little difference. The staff, in turn, see the community could care less about inmates so staff sexual misconduct incidents rise and unprofessional behavior becomes the norm. This behavior becomes so egregious outside attorneys file lawsuits costing a near bankrupt state millions.

IDOC continues to thwart reform and not follow Illinois law. In 2007, the Illinois Legislature passed the Crime Reduction Act (CRA). CRA caused the establishment of the Risk, Assets, Needs assessment Taskforce (RANA). RANA called in the Vera Institute and Orbis to make a computer program called SPIn costing $900,000 to assess each prisoner on what they need to do to rehabilitate and function in society. I have been incarcerated for a decade with others who have been incarcerated decades more and none of us have been assessed using SPIn. Currently, Logan Correctional Center releases inmates without SPIn assessments. IDOC states it is too understaffed to assess inmates in a timely manner, making excuses for breaking the law for the last nine years. Instead of working smarter, using technology and resources on hand, not harder, they continue to make excuses making the IDOC Mission Statement a farce. A community that cares and victims that want restorative justice instead of vengeance will critically review the Stateville Team proposal and support legislation to bring back a true Parole Board system to Illinois making IDOC and the justice system accountable and Illinois safer for all.