Illinois Department of Corrections Director Outlines New Vision for State Prisons, Completes Tamms Prison Review, Announces Reforms

Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Director Michael P. Randle today outlined his plan for reforming the state’s prison system. Randle’s vision to move the department forward includes implementing the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009 and a 10-Point Plan for the supermax prison in Southern Illinois.

“There are a number of criminal justice reforms on the horizon in which IDOC will play a significant role.  One in particular is the implementation of the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, which will fundamentally reshape the criminal justice system in this state,” Director Randle said.  “I applaud Governor Pat Quinn for signing this into law and Senator Kwame Raoul and Representative William Burns for their hard work in getting this legislation passed.  I will use this new law as a blueprint to move the department forward.”

The Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009 will reduce the number of commitments to IDOC in part by creating a new program to help divert adults from prison.

Funding for the Adult Redeploy program will be given to those counties who use community-based diversion programs to help those who would have otherwise received a short-term prison sentence.  Reducing the prison population will save the department money, stimulate the economy and help reduce recidivism.

The Act also calls for the implementation of an automated integrated system to link courts, probation, prison and parole.  Such a link will help formulate an offender’s reentry plan and reduce recidivism.

It will identify resources and services needed, such as substance abuse programming and job placement, as well as other factors, including education level, skills, attitude and relationships that can affect the outcomes related to the reentry process.

In addition to the Illinois Crime Reduction Act of 2009, IDOC will implement reforms at the Tamms Closed Maximum Security Unit (CMAX).  After appointing Randle as IDOC director in May, Governor Quinn requested that Randle thoroughly review the operations at the Tamms facility.

“There is ample evidence that shows significant decreases in staff and inmate assaults and gang activity since the opening and operation of Tamms.  While the need for such a facility exists, there are several operational reforms that are being recommended,” Director Randle explained.

Tamms CMAX, which opened in March 1998, is designated to house IDOC’s most disruptive, violent and problematic inmates.  Inmates approved for placement at Tamms CMAX have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to conform to the requirements of a general population prison.

After conducting a thorough review of the operations at Tamms CMAX, Director Randle made the following recommendations in his Tamms 10-Point Plan:

  • Point 1: Allow each inmate placed at Tamms CMAX to have a Transfer Review Hearing.
    • Specific timelines to conduct Transfer Review Hearings are being designated.
    • Inmates will be given an opportunity to refute and offer information that may impact their transfer to Tamms CMAX.  Inmates will also be given an opportunity to appeal their placement at Tamms CMAX.
    • An audio recording of all Tamms CMAX placement hearings will be maintained.
  • Point 2: Inform each inmate of an estimated length of stay and how privileges can be earned to provide for eventual transfer from Tamms CMAX.
    • Based on the offense the inmate committed, staff will use professional correctional judgment to inform the inmate of a range of time he should expect to serve at Tamms CMAX.
  • Point 3: Promote the medical and mental health evaluation process conducted prior to and after placement for each inmate sent to Tamms CMAX.
    • Each inmate placed at Tamms CMAX will receive a full mental health evaluation within 30 days of placement.
    • Mental health staff will make weekly rounds in all housing units to identify any inmate who is decompensating as a result of transfer to the facility.
  • Point 4: Increase inmate privileges throughout the Behavioral Level System to incentivize positive behavior at Tamms CMAX.
    • Dependent on behavioral adjustment, the amount of out-of-cell recreation time and commissary will be increased.
    • Telephone privileges will be added to the Behavioral Level System at the facility.
  • Point 5: Begin offering General Educational Development (GED) testing at Tamms CMAX.
  • Point 6: Implement congregate religious services for inmates at Tamms CMAX.
  • Point 7: Rescind some of the printed materials restrictions for inmates at Tamms CMAX.
  • Point 8: Develop a plan for a Reassignment Unit at Tamms CMAX similar to those operated at other step-down units.
    • The Reassignment Unit will be an intermediate step for inmates who present the most risk if transferred from Tamms CMAX, but have demonstrated appropriate adjustment behavior.
  • Point 9: Plan a media, legislative and public outreach strategy that includes a visit to Tamms Correctional Center.
  • Point 10: Reexamine the population of inmates having served extensive time at Tamms CMAX for transfer eligibility.
    • A review of the inmates held at Tamms CMAX from 1998 through 2004 was conducted to determine which inmates were appropriate for eventual transfer out of the facility.  Of the cases reviewed, 45 were deemed eligible for transfer.

“The John Howard Association of Illinois has championed many of these reforms since Tamms opened in 1998.  We are deeply grateful that Director Randle has made so much progress in such a short time, and we enthusiastically endorse his Ten-Point Plan.

These reforms will improve the conditions of confinement, better address mental health needs, afford inmates greater access to fair and humane treatment and offer them the promise of education and other programming. Inmates who have demonstrated years of good behavior also now have a chance to earn their way out of Tamms and back into prisons with less harsh conditions.

As advocates, we know that reform is a process, and we will keep a close eye on monitoring the implementation of these welcomed reforms,” said Hanke Gratteau, executive director, John Howard Association of Illinois.

Director Randle is looking forward to implementing the Tamms 10-Point Plan and will continue to monitor and evaluate the reforms to ensure their effectiveness.

The full report on Tamms CMAX is posted on IDOC’s Web site: idoc.state.il.us.

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3 Responses to "Illinois Department of Corrections Director Outlines New Vision for State Prisons, Completes Tamms Prison Review, Announces Reforms"

  1. Sheryl Moore says:

    Keep blogging. Anyway, many thanks and I enjoy posting once more sometime!

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  3. William E.M. Cunningham says:

    The prision system has come a long way since I noticed the profesonalism of Sargent Carter and his crew. And it has all been down hill! It seems that the almighty dollar is the impatice for many of the changes. lately that includes the inmate lookup program. We as parents and relitives are trying to give support, but find it difficult to overcome your ability to produce the attitudes that make repeat offenders.

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