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January 28, 1999


SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. George H. Ryan today sped up his plans to double the number of state parole officers by ordering the Department of Corrections to immediately hire 10 new agents to supervise former inmates released by a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling.

The governor said that particular concerns have been raised about the 27 convicted sex offenders who have been released because of a court opinion that struck down a state law that required certain offenders to serve a guaranteed amount of jail time without the possibility of earning "good time" credits.

"The ruling that invalidated Illinois' old 'truth-in-sentencing' law forced the release of 27 sex offenders earlier this week," Ryan said. "As a result, I have directed the Department of Corrections to immediately hire 10 new parole agents to help supervise these recently-released inmates and others whose sentences will end earlier than anticipated.

"We owe this to the citizens of Illinois, who expect us to supervise criminals released from prison," Ryan added.

According to state Corrections Director Donald N. Snyder, Jr., the new parole agents will be assigned to assist the 64 existing agents in the intensive supervision division of the agency's community supervision program.

Eventually, more than 2,500 inmates may be released early because of the high court's decision. The ruling invalidated the "truth-in-sentencing" law because the statute, as passed by the General Assembly, violated a constitutional provision which requires legislation to contain a single subject.

Last year, Ryan proposed an increase in the number of parole agents, from the current headcount of 183, to 266. The current staff of officers supervise approximately 30,600 former inmates that are assigned to the parole program. Of the inmates on parole, more than 1,000 are convicted sex offenders and, based on past experience, are far more likely to attempt a return to crime.

"All parole agents are specially trained in how to best monitor sex offenders. Some sex offenders also are fitted with electronic monitoring devices that enable parole agents to more precisely supervise high-risk parolees," Snyder said.

Housing for sex offenders is approved prior to release to ensure that placement is not close to the homes of their victims or children. Parole agents regularly visit places where sex offenders live to search for pornography or other signs of relapse. Some sex offenders are not permitted to have computers to help prevent the possibility of internet crimes.

Released sex offenders are required to provide schedules of their activities to parole agents and must maintain employment and receive counseling and substance abuse treatment as necessary. Agents monitor the work sites of sex offenders on parole and talk with job supervisors to uncover any possible inappropriate behavior. Agents regularly check with community treatment providers to make sure the released offender is attending counseling sessions as part of ongoing therapy.

If sex offenders do not comply with the requirements of their release, they are returned to prison immediately.

"As part of my commitment to make Illinois neighborhoods and schools safer, I pledged to double the ranks of parole officers on our streets and focus the state's parole resources on the highest-risk criminals," Ryan said. "With today's hirings, we take a significant step towards realizing that goal."

It will cost $297,300 to hire the 10 new agents for the rest of this fiscal year. The hirings will force a delay in the opening of a new contractual work release facility until later this year.


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