State Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) sent a letter to Acting Director Rob Jeffreys at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) asking for explanations on the decisions taken regarding inmates being released early during the coronavirus emergency. The letter was co-signed by twenty-one of Rep. Wilhour’s colleagues in the Illinois House of Representatives.
“Unfortunately, the Governor ignored our early warnings to lock down these facilities in order to protect the offenders and most importantly the Corrections Staff. His failure to act immediately put these workers at risk and now this scrambling action is putting citizens outside of the prison at risk,” commented Rep. Wilhour.
The letter points out that the governor has taken several actions regarding inmates in the Illinois correctional system that have greatly increased concerns about the public safety of communities. Rep. Wilhour’s district includes the prison in Vandalia and IDOC facilities in nearby Centralia and Hillsboro.
On Monday, April 6, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-21, which gives the Acting Director the discretion to utilize furloughs to allow certain inmates to leave IDOC facilities.
Because public information regarding this policy change has been limited, Rep. Wilhour and the other legislators would like to know the answers to the following questions:
* What are the medical, psychiatric, or psychological conditions that would make an inmate eligible for furlough?
* Will the type or classification of offense be a criterion to determine an inmate’s eligibility for furlough? If so, what offenders will be eligible for furlough?
* Will victims, the public or local law enforcement in the communities where the furloughed inmate will be, released be notified prior to the furlough taking effect?
* Will furloughed inmates go to medical or psychiatric facilities or other locations upon leaving IDOC custody?
* Will conditions be placed upon furloughed inmates during their release? If so, what are those conditions?
* Will furloughed inmates be required to have regular check-ins with their home facility?
* Will inmates be furloughed on electronic monitoring? If so, are they eligible for the 12 hours of free movement policy that was recently changed by the Prisoner Review Board and IDOC?
* Will furloughed inmates be accompanied by IDOC staff during their time outside of IDOC facilities?
* What will be the process for furloughed inmates to return to IDOC custody?
The letter includes reference to Governor JB Pritzker’s own statements from March 31, 2020, where Governor Pritzker stated, “… Any and every one of our DOC residents who falls seriously ill with COVID-19 will receive available medical assistance to get through it, including an ICU bed and a ventilator, if necessary… Hospitals that refuse to take on residents of the Department of Corrections will be called out by name, and those that refuse to operate in accordance to their oath can and will be compelled to do so by law.”
Additionally, the letter points out that Rep. Wilhour and the other signers “represent many Critical Access Hospitals with limited intensive care capabilities, particularly under the current circumstances. The majority of IDOC facilities are located outside of the Chicagoland area and in communities with Critical Access Hospitals. (They) request additional information on what your expectations are for the hospitals and medical facilities located near IDOC facilities and your contingency plans on how IDOC may utilize those hospitals and medical facilities.”
Rep. Wilhour added that “At last count there were over 1,100 prisoners released early under the coronavirus directive. We do not release prisoners when there are other emergencies and this is a dangerous precedent to set without very clear explanations and accountabilities in place to protect our communities.”