Thank you, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), for releasing 848 people early during the first eight weeks of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on our analysis of data provided to the public by IDOC, nearly 44 percent of those released were within weeks of their out dates, and another 20 percent were within one or two months of their out dates.
Thirty percent were serving time for the lowest level of felonies, Class 4, and an additional 30 percent were serving time for Class 3 felonies, the second lowest level in Illinois’s criminal code.
In addition to early releases for low-level felonies, Governor Pritzker commuted the sentences of approximately 20 individuals after recommendations from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB). Clemency is a rigorous process, and prosecutors and victims’ families are given the opportunity to challenge each clemency request. Clemency and other early release mechanisms became confused in public discourse this week due to the release of a series of inaccurate stories in local media outlets.
Early releases during this pandemic are critical because of the contagious and widespread nature of the virus.
As Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have both noted at their daily press conferences, congregate settings, including correctional facilities, are uniquely vulnerable to the virus.
Before COVID-19 struck, Illinois’s prisons were operating under a consent decree for providing inadequate healthcare, which gives the state even more motivation to reduce facility populations and relieve stress on medical resources.