Illinois prison population is decreasing - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Illinois prison population is decreasing

Officials say more prisoners are staying in local programs and jurisdictions rather than moving to the state's system.(Source: Raycom) Officials say more prisoners are staying in local programs and jurisdictions rather than moving to the state's system.(Source: Raycom)
(KFVS/AP) -

Overcrowding of prisoners is a long-standing problem in the Illinois Department of Corrections, but new data shows prison population has reached a five-year-low.

At the system's peak in 2013, 49,321 were behind bars, while it was only designed to house 32,000.

Earlier in 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner assigned a research committee to investigate plausibility of a 25 percent decrease in IDOC population.

The latest drop to 47,483 is just under 4 percent lower than the 2013 peak, and state officials attribute the reduction to Quinn-era programs which reward good inmate behavior with decreased time served.

Those officials also say more prisoners are staying in local programs and jurisdictions rather than moving to the state's system.

Administrators at the Williamson County Jail say their population has increased steadily since a larger facility was recently built, and they say some of the in-flow has been recently released convicts.

“There is a realistic, and sad trend,” said jail administrator Lt. Darren Ferrell. “For some people, that’s their life. They’re in and out of the system for a good majority of their life.”

“I think it would be a lot less expensive for them to have preventative programs if they do release them,” said Marion resident Karen Keasler. “So that they don’t go back to prison.”

A DOC spokesperson says the goal is to decrease taxpayer dollars being pumped into the system, as well as make the facilities safer for inmates and workers.

The research committee took public comments Monday afternoon in Chicago, which members will take into consideration as they decide how to reach the governor’s goal of a 25 percent drop.

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