Prisoners released early to save state cash

November 11, 2009 4:44:22 AM PST
The first of nearly 1,000 Illinois prisoners went home Tuesday night as part of an early release plan to save the cash-strapped state millions of dollars. Inmates involved in the early release are non-violent offenders who will serve the remainder of their sentences at home on electronic monitoring.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he knows he will face criticism if any of these inmates commit crimes. The governor says the electronic detention of these inmates will save the state $5 million a year.

It costs the state an average of $24,000 a year to feed, guard and house an inmate.

Illinois is not alone in turning to the much cheaper system of home detention as a means to save money.

It is the first day of a new level of freedom.

The first six Illinois prison inmates, joined by their families and parole agents, prepared to serve the remainder of their sentences at home on Tuesday afternoon.

Savina Sauseda was sentenced to two years for the manufacture and delivery of cocaine. Now, three months before her release date, she's among those going home with a new piece of jewelry: an electronic monitor on her ankle.

"I'm ecstatic about it but at the same time, what if this isn't a great time and something goes wrong? Some us will follow the rules, some of us won't," said Sauseda.

All of the 1,000 inmates eligible for early release are non-violent offenders who've been housed at adult transition centers like this one in Aurora. They hold jobs and have previously earned weekend passes to go home. So being "on the outside" isn't an entirely new experience.

"These people have been in the community for six months to a year already," said Jesse Montgomery, Illinois Department of Corrections Parole Chief.

"The next few months for them will be what they make of it," said Patrick Keane, Fox Valley Adult Transition Center.

Savina Sauseda had two hours to get to her family's home in Chicago and connect the electronic monitoring equipment.

She'll continue her work as a waitress, but other than that and pre-approved trips, she has to stay within 75 feet of her home. That'll give the 24-year-old plenty of time to research a return to nursing school.

"Two more months on this and I'll be scot-free, hopefully," said Sauseda.

So how many inmates on home detention wind up right back in prison? The Illinois Department of Corrections tracked a group for three years and found in that time 33 percent committed new crimes.


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