I’ve corresponded over the years with Department of Corrections inmates.
One observes the management of the system and passes on suggestions.
Used to be I could have some potential impact.
Not so much anymore, except by sharing this suggestion of how the Bruce Rauner Administration could reduce the number of prisoners–one of his goal–thus reducing the cost to taxpayers.
In a letter to Governor Rauner, he writes,
AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER
The Mission Statement of the Illinois Department of Corrections contains rhetoric that is being consciously ignored.
The rehabilitative concept of programs to promote offender’s successful re-entry in society” would have Illinois taxpayers think that these programs exist.
However, any program that would reduce recidivism and lower the number of prisoners would also reduce the number of staff necessary to care for them
Because the IDOC shares the survival instinct with most living things, it is unable to initiate any meaningful self-reform.
However, change is possible if it is created legislatively.
To this end, and on behalf of Illinois taxpayers as well as most of the (circa0 50,000 prisoners in the Illinois system, I ask that you please involved the Legislative Research Unit and request that they study the following concept and prepare meaningful legislation for your approval.
[Actually, I think most of the suggestions below could be implemented without new legislation.]
If all upper echelon prison administrators, from Lieutenants all the say up to the Director, were paid a base salary and then a bonus for a reduction in thee rate of recidivism and a concomitant reduction in the number of prisoners, the intent of the Crime Reduction Act as well as the Governor’s goal of a 25% reduction in the prison population could become a reality.
Any money paid as a bonus would be off set by any litigation expenses where the staff member was a dependent in a prison-related law suit.
The paradigm shift to a base salary with a bonus for achieving pre-established goals should be the incentive required to eliminate the causes of the many IDOC program failures.
The prisoner titles his suggestion
MERIT BASED MANAGEMENT
In each of the various Illinois prisons a newly sentenced prisoner is given an orientation manual that lists over a hundred rules and the penalties imposed for breaking them, but nowhere is there any reference to the possibility of earning a better life through conformance or a system of merit.
This lack of merit or incentive based prison management discourages prisoners from thinking that they can ever be more than convicts.
Prisoners will try to make their lives conform with the arcane (often bewildering) prison rules and the unpublished Prisoner’s Code of Conduct established by their alleged peers.
I use “alleged” here because prisoners are more competitors in a struggle to survive than equals.
This is a form of Social Darwinism and amp’ed up on steroids.
However, even with a lack of incentive based management those prisoners with a sincere desire to escape the revolving door of recidivism can be successful.
Success requires that a prisoner use the time the Courts have given him/her productively.
Educational opportunities up to an associates degree are available in almost every Illinois prison.
Educational programs are often at the mercy of institutional security, lockdowns for any any reason interrupt class schedules and are often imposed for reasons that are neither legitimate nor reasonable.
The motivation behind many lockdowns and outright cancellation of classes and programming can be traced to attempts at job preservation by middle management prison staff.
The Illinois prison system is contractually obligated to maintain specific staffing ratios for each security level prison.
When efforts to reduce recidivism are successful, and the number of prisoners is reduced, a concomitant number of staff will lose their jobs.
Since IDOC has not known contingency plans that would facility downsizing the system, programs successful in reducing recidivism are often sabotaged in the interest of securing and protecting the jobs for the Corrections officers.
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This is an idea similar to a technique used by Medicare to encourage hospitals to make sure patients are well when they leave.
Medicare penalizes hospitals with high re-admission rates.