These bills and amendments do three things that drive the sentenced population up: change probation eligibility on several offenses; increase the mandatory minimums for all offenses; and make these offenses subject to truth in sentencing. These changes increase the number of offenders sentenced to DOC and the length of time they spend in DOC facilities. SPAC analyzed data from the DOC admissions and exits for calendar years 2010 through 2012 to assess the fiscal impact of these sentencing policy changes had they been in effect for those years.
The Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, with the help of criminal justice researchers Dave Olson and Don Stemen from Loyola University-Chicago, undertook an analysis of the factors that drive the sentenced population in Illinois. The number of offenders in Illinois prison reached a historic high in FY12 but probation remains the most frequently imposed sentence. Policy-makers are facing the challenges of reducing the level and cost of incarceration while protecting public safety and imposing effective sanctions that hold offenders accountable for their criminal conduct. However, this cannot succeed without reliable data and analysis.
Understanding the drivers of the sentenced population, including probation and alternatives to incarceration is critical to crafting and advancing fiscally sound--data driven criminal justice policies that are both appropriate for the crime, effective at reducing recidivism, and based on analysis – rather than emotional responses to tragic, highly publicized crimes. The analysis was conducted in three parts; Mandatory Supervised Release violators who are returned to the Illinois Department of Corrections, probation sentences and outcomes, and length of stay in corrections facilities. This research provides the foundation for ongoing discussions of how to reduce our reliance on mass incarceration, and implement programs and sanctions that deter crime and reduce recidivism.
Over the past 22 years, the impact on Illinois’ prison admissions and population of those on Mandatory Supervised Release (MSR) returned to prison as technical violators or with new prison sentences has varied considerably.
Under Illinois' sentencing structure, the majority of those convicted of a felony can be sentenced to either supervision in the community under probation or a period of incarceration within Illinois’ prison system.
The length of time individuals serve in prison is affected by several factors, including changes in the legal classification of crimes and the sentences available for those crimes, pretrial detention practices, prosecutorial charging and plea decisions, judicial sentencing decisions, and policies and practices that impact the ability of correctional administrators to award good conduct and other sentencing credits.