When any single agency within the criminal justice system fails us, it is important that we look to assign responsibility beyond the confines of that single agency. Why? Because there is a dialectical relationship between every agency. There is little doubt that the quality of work of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (the agency that answers 911 calls and dispatches resources) has a significant impact on the work of correctional agencies. Now, this is not something that is easy to communicate through the limited attention span of the media in Chicago/Cook County/Illinois. For one, the reporters covering scandals traditionally lack the understanding of how these agencies rely on the work of other agencies when explaining issues to their audience. Secondly, nuance does not sell papers. Hyperbolic and alarmist reporting does; especially in the midst of a heated election cycle.
The secrecy of the program and the total inability of those in charge to admit knowledge of the program are inexcusable and reprehensible. However, a closer look will uncover that while the secrecy is bad, the true issue that should be looked at is how the system responded to a brutal beating of a woman.
With all the reporting that surrounded the conviction and sentencing for everyone’s favorite brutal cop, Anthony Abbate, what was missed is that lawyers familiar with how sentencing is done at 26th and California (the Chicago branch of the Cook County Criminal Court) knew the going rate for beating a women in Chicago/Cook County is 2 years probation. This result is, um…. reprehensible. Abbate was caught on tape pummeling a defenseless woman repeatedly. Who is responsible for this sentence? Is it the CPD, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Cook County Circuit Court, the specific judge, or maybe some other larger more elusive group of people nobody ever really ever thinks to blame about how laws live in the world for other than intended purposes. I will get back to this in a moment.
The beating of Jen Hall should be one of those crimes that attract the full attention of our criminal justice system. Why? Because one person beating another person so brutally to forever change the life of that individual – permanent physical damage – mental distress that will never be alleviated – and huge uncovered medial bills, simply changing the lives of at least 2 individuals forever, cannot be excused. Nothing involved in this situation would pull at anyone’s heartstrings for mercy to be brought upon the perpetrator of the crime. Then why would the court only sentence an individual capable of such horrific violence to only three years? Once again I ask, whose fault is it, if it is anyone’s fault?
In the reporting on this issue there were complaints about how the final charge, (robbery), for which Derrick King was convicted because he was found to be in possession of her cell phone. Well, the reality is that using Unified Crime Reporting (UCR) definitions, and the laws in Illinois that flow from those definitions; robbery is a more serious crime than aggravated assault. Robbery is theft with force – as such the physical battery is a required aspect that makes the theft perpetrated by King a robbery and not a theft.
UCR Index Crimes by Severity in descending order:
- Aggravated Battery/Assault
- Vehicle Theft
Sentencing guidelines and laws that mandate sentences for particular crimes are usually created in the midst of a large scandal, driven by powerful special interests, or are created in the shadows of Springfield. The fact that an individual can get only three years for what was done to Jen Hill is pretty scary considering the fact that individuals are getting at least equivalent sentences for non-violent drug crimes. I once witnessed a sentencing at 26th and California for drug sales where a late teen received two years. Um….maybe something is wrong with this picture. Three years for a violent attack forever changing the life a women who was just walking down the street vs. selling a substance to an adult who knew what they were purchasing.
BTW, where does the gender of Abbate’s victim and Ms. Hill come into play and who is at fault for the role it plays – the police, prosecutors, the courts, prison administrators, or the law makers?
Information Technology Failures of Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC):
The fact that IDOC has had to continually update the list because their technologies are incapable of pumping out a legitimate list is um…reprehensible. One can only wonder what other types of information IDOC could be using to do their jobs better and keep the public informed that is being missed or worse, misused, by IDOC simply because the institution has failed to catch up with the 21st century. One can only wonder if the antiquated system is due to fiscal mismanagement by the agency itself, a failure of our legislature to adequately fund IDOC to keep their system up to date, or if IDOC is quietly allowing the their system to not be upgraded and is benefiting from being unable to look at their own operations. Hmmm………
Response to Rich Miller from Capital Fax Blog:
Rich was correct in saying (See comments section at the end) that I probably should have quoted from some of the more ridiculous media coverage when criticizing their work. Below is a snapshot of some of the media coverage from around the state in reference to the MGT Push Program, with some commentary. This does not mean that all the coverage was alarmist because some of the editorials here in the north were pretty well grounded in reality, but the majority of the coverage was hyperbolic to say the least.
Associated Press via Chicago Tribune
“When Gov. Pat Quinn halted a secret early prison release program recently, he acknowledged 56 of the freed inmates were already back behind bars — 48 for violating rules of their parole.
What he did not say was that those broken rules included at least 17 allegations of violent crimes, including attempted murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault of a police officer, according to Associated Press interviews and reviews of public and internal Corrections Department documents. Quinn said Friday that he didn’t know what the parole infractions were and didn’t ask.”
A whole 17 committed violenct crimes and Quinn did not tell us! 17 of 1700 is 1% – an astounding rate of violent recidivism from a group of such violent criminals. Quinn should have pointed out to the world that for some reason there was such a low rate of violent criminals returning to violent crime.
Associated Press via State Journal Register
Dec. 13, 2009
“And Antoine Garrett, previously convicted of armed robbery and illegal firearms possession by a felon, got a one-year sentence after Chicago police saw him drop a bag of cocaine on the street as they approached, but spent just 21 days locked up.”
Here the AP is trying to use an “incarcerate them” for anything ideology. It certainly seems like the AP is trying to say here that once a person commits a violenct crime he/she is always a violent criminal and no matter what other crime they are picked up for, they should always be treated as a violent criminal. This is simply bad correctional policy, bad for the individual in question, and bad for the community to which he is being returned. If he dropped the cocaine then he would have been better mandated into treatment then he would have been spending that time in the Illinois Department of Corrections. But that is not included here, in fact nowhere in the article is that idea even hinted at; well not unless you read the last two lines.
Dec. 15, 2009
“It was so obvious that the state’s early release program for state prison inmates would run off the rails that it’s almost pointless to say, “Told ya’ so.”
Really, how exactly did it run off the rails? I mean, a low number recidivated- something like 3%, 1% in violent crimes to this point. I know from my doctoral studies in criminology that the number that we would expect is significantly higher, albeit that is over the course of three years. Yes, some of the individuals released committed violent crimes – that is truly a horrible reality – but to be expected. Crime and correctional policy is only going to be conducted openly and fairly if the media stops dwelling on the results of the outliers and deals with the realities under the curve, because under the curve is where policy is targeted. Public policy set out to address the outliers is why the prisons are so overcrowded with non-violent class 4 felony drug offenders and not with the men that commit crimes against women.
Crime and correctional policy is based on statistics and risk reduction vs. expenditures. All criminologists would tell you some of the 1700 inmates were going to commit violent crimes in the future. That sucks, but nonetheless it is reality. The theory littered through the reporting is; if only these “violent criminals” had to serve the remaining 54 days of their sentence they never would have offended again – pure fiction.
Jan 2, 2010
“The handling of this program brings into question all early release programs in Illinois.”
Why? If the bar that is suggested by this comment is that the only way an early release program can be approved is that nobody can recidivate, or even commit another violent crime, then our correctional policy is doomed. We cannot possibly judge the results of the program by the outcomes of the extreme minority – 1% violent – 3% just returning to prison on another offense (this includes the 1% that committed violent crimes and returned to prison). Public policy must not be reactionary – but stoic and patient. Public policy needs to be based on fact based evidence that looks for results that mirror best practices nation wide; not one-off alarmist reporting that is coming from a point of ignorance rather than from an informed perspective.
State Journal Register
Dec 17, 2010
This almost amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card. Illinois can implement a cost-effective and safe method for releasing nonviolent prisoners early, but MGT Push reduces the deterrence that going to prison provides against committing crime. It is not a framework the state should be using.
Hello? What deterrence is there in these individuals serving another 54 days in prison? Answer that please. Show me a study that says there is a significant deterrent effect found between serving 17 vs. 61 days. I bet you cannot show me one. I mean if the individual is prone to violence, how are the extra 54 days going to make a difference? They are not, but the media wants you to believe they are. Why is the question?