Open Letter to Governor Quinn: IDOC reformer is pushed out, but his reform must continue

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Letters to the Editor
The open letter below expresses the dismay and disappointment that many individuals and organizations felt about the resignation of the first true reformer the IDOC has had in a generation. 
We believe it is important to highlight the excellent work that Director Randle started, and to demand that it continue. We also want Gov. Quinn, or any future governor, to know that we are all very engaged in the future of corrections in Illinois, and that we do not take these decisions lightly.
Dear Governor Quinn:
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, are deeply saddened by the resignation of Michael Randle as Director of the IDOC. Our many years of experience with corrections reform persuade us that Randle has been a skilled, industrious, visionary, and accomplished director. We hope that the cause of reform and modernization will not be set back by his departure.

Since you announced Randle’s appointment just a little over a year ago, he has undertaken a number of important and overdue initiatives. The Ten Point-Plan for reform at Tamms supermax prison, still being implemented, was applauded by advocates, politicians, and career corrections officers alike. Many of his other accomplishments have been less publicized but are equally significant:

  • Randle has partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to launch a major independent evaluation of IDOC’s management of high-risk offenders in maximum-security institutions. Additionally, he is working with the National Institute of Corrections to review IDOC’s security management and critical incident procedures. This work is underway by grants from these organizations, with no cost to the state of Illinois.
  • The first stage of a multi-stage, comprehensive overhaul of IDOC’s multiple, obsolete computer systems is nearly completed. His work toward a modern, agile electronic information system is among the highest priorities for the IDOC, and should not be interrupted.
  • Randle has taken important steps to improve the crisis of medical neglect in Illinois prisons, a system so defective that prisoners die from lack of care while in IDOC custody. Besides his responsiveness in working with advocates to reform the medical grievance procedures, he launched a pilot program to allow teleconferencing between inmates with HIV and hepatitis C to doctors at the University of Illinois Medical Center, thereby improving care while reducing transportation costs. Randle plans to expand this program to more prisons and other medical conditions.
  • He is developing a five-year strategic plan to designate certain prisons for specialized vocational and educational programs and to create special units for offenders who are aged 50 or over, those with a history of substance abuse, and those with serious medical issues. These centralized and targeted facilities lower recidivism and save money by efficiently providing more services to more inmates.
  • Randle has also taken the first steps to reduce prison overcrowding and save money. His Employee Cost-Savings Suggestion Program has saved $2.5 million, and the hiring and training of more than 700 new correctional officers, has resulted in a reduction of more than $5 million in overtime costs in this fiscal year. He is committed to programs such as Redeploy Illinois, to divert short-term offenders to community-based sentencing and avoid the high costs and poor outcomes that come from incarceration in state prison for relatively minor offenses.
  • Director Randle has been extremely active in assisting volunteer and charitable organizations gain access to the prisons. These individuals and groups – from ministers to literacy aides to exercise instructors – play an essential role in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and past administrations have senselessly blocked them. By removing institutional obstacles to safe and effective volunteerism, we lower recidivism and strengthen communities at no cost to the state.
Most importantly, Mr. Randle transformed the Illinois Department of Corrections into an agency that is responsive to citizens and legislators. Since he was hired, the IDOC has begun to closely examine its policies, learn from other states, and change for the better. Director Randle has helped to restore public accountability, accessibility, openness, and honest dialogue with civic groups, the press, academics and legislators. From his first day on the job, Randle has personally answered hundreds of calls, letters and emails, and attended dozens of long legislative hearings in order to understand the needs of the people of Illinois, and explain his decisions and policies.

For all these reasons, we very much regret your decision to accept Randle’s resignation. As you know, the state of Illinois must starting adopting fiscally sound reform programs such as these. We urge you to support the new director in following through with the ideas, initiatives, and leadership of Michael Randle. We will be carefully monitoring her progress.

Very sincerely,
State Representative William Davis, 30th District
State Representative Connie A. Howard, 34th District
State Senator Mattie Hunter, 3rd District
State Representative Arthur L. Turner, 9th District, Deputy Majority Leader
State Representative Karen A. Yarbrough, 7th District
Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, Waukegan
John Howard Association of Illinois
Program for Prison Reentry Strategies, Northwestern University Law School Bluhm Legal Clinic
Mental Health Advocacy Project, University of Chicago
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression-Chicago
Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law
Stateville Speaks
Tamms Year Ten
Uptown People’s Law Center
Phil Carrigan, Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, Waukegan
Owen Daniel-McCarter, Transformative Justice Law Project
Don Goldhamer, co-founder, Ilinois Prisons and Jails Project
Patricia Jones, Chairman, Coalition to Reduce Recidivism
Dolores Kennedy, Center on Wrongful Convictions
Barbara Bailey Kessel, Champaign County ACLU 2010 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties award recipient
Sherry Murray, President, Coalition to Reduce Recidivism
Christine Rocca and Anthony LaRocca Jr., Alliance 1-11
Sarah L. Ross, Volunteer Facilitator, Danville Prisoner Book Club
Nancy Stagg, McKinley Presbyterian Church, Champaign
Malcolm C. Young, Director Program for Prison Reentry Strategies, Northwestern University Law School Bluhm Legal Clinic
Alliance 1-11
ARC-A Movement Re-imagining Change
Campaign In Support of the C# Prisoners
Champaign-Urbana Books to Prisoners
Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers
CURE Illinois 
Former Inmates Striving Together
Illinois Coalition Against Torture
Illinois Prison Talk
Positive Anti-Crime Thrust, Inc.
Project NIA
Protestants for the Common Good
Reaching Back Ministry
Saints of Humboldt Park
Saving Our Sons Ministries, Inc.
Shut-Up Prison Ministries
The Three R’s Project: Reading Reduces Recidivism
Trinity United Church of Christ – Prison Ministry

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