Illinois pays millions to keep inmates who can’t find homes

Image courtesy of stockvault.net

Image courtesy of stockvault.net

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois spends as much as $25 million a year to keep inmates in prison because they can’t find suitable places to live that meet the terms of their parole.

Nearly 1,250 inmates are held beyond their release dates each year, the Chicago Tribune reported. The issue mostly affects sex offenders, who face housing restrictions, as well as those subject to electronic monitoring as part of parole.

Corrections officials say the practice began about a decade ago. They’re frustrated by delays, but say they’re tied by restrictions on how close sex offenders can live to schools, parks and other places there are likely to be children. Just nine beds in Illinois halfway houses are reserved for sex offenders, none of them in Cook County, according to officials.

Prisoners must be released by the time their parole ends, which can be as long as three years. If held for the duration of their parole, they don’t receive any parole services when they do get out.

“We believe it’s better to go back to society in a supervised fashion,” Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said. “We believe in the parole mission.”

Shaer said it costs nearly $22,000 a year to keep an inmate in prison, while parole costs about $2,000.

Critics say the poor are unfairly impacted. The Illinois Supreme Court recently took up a case challenging the practice, but said it might be better addressed by state legislators.

The inmate in that case, Johnny Cordrey, was scheduled for a three-year parole term to begin April 2013, butparole officers said he couldn’t find a suitable home. He was released in October, before the Supreme Court took the case, and his attorney said Cordrey was given a one-way bus ticket to Peoria to try to get into a Salvation Army shelter.

Cordrey was sentenced to 36 years in prison for kidnapping and rape in 1993.

“The guy had no support, no tools, so we just threw him out on the streets,” said Chicago attorney E. King Poor, who represented Cordrey. “I said, ‘Johnny, what are you going to do?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ That same story gets repeated over and over with other inmates.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.