05 15 Dunkin Asks Governor to Create Bipartisan Working Group Save Money by Reducing Incarceration Levels
SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) on Friday sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn and the four legislative leaders in the General Assembly, asking the governor to take the lead on creating a bipartisan and bicameral working group to develop legislation that will create lower tiers of penalties for nonviolent offenses, which will save the state a significant amount of money in incarceration costs.

“When you take a look at Illinois’ prison population, most of them are there for nonviolent crimes,” Dunkin said. “The United States and Illinois incarcerates too many people, and the fiscal pressures, as well as the societal damage these policies create, are unsustainable.”

Dunkin’s letter comes on the heels of a successful effort in Georgia to pass comprehensive prison and criminal justice reform, involving their governor, legislative leaders, and the chief justice of their supreme court. The new law, which establishes graduated penalties for several property and drug crimes, strengthens probation and treatment efforts, and aims to reduce overcrowding by reducing prison transfer delays, was passed unanimously in both chambers and recently signed into law.

Georgia’s legislation follows other states, most notably Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, which have enacted measures with similar goals.

“If all these states, which are more conservative than Illinois, can move forward unanimously to enact common sense criminal justice reforms, I am certain that Illinois legislators can do the same,” Dunkin said.

According to the John Howard Association of Illinois, Illinois spent more than $1 billion on prisons in 2009, with an average cost of $25,000 per inmate. Approximately 70% of inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, and 50% serve six months or less.

“Let me be clear: this effort is about saving money and trying to break the cycle of recidivism that turns nonviolent people who made a mistake into bitter, career criminals,” Dunkin said. “I despise violent criminals who ruin communities and believe they deserve tough prison sentences. But I do see a great opportunity to find a smarter and cheaper way to spend that $25,000 on nonviolent offenders.”

For more information, please contact Dunkin’s constituent service office at (312) 266-0340.