Monday was supposed to be the day that Gov. Pat Quinn's handlers hoped he'd make news with his jobs and economic development plans. But a little known program to release state prisoner for good behavior again the dominated the headlines and the Democratic primary campaign for governor.
After his City Club speech, the governor would rather have talked about jobs and economic development.
"I think it's important that the governor always be doing things to help our economy grow," said Quinn.
Instead, most of the questions focused on the Illinois prison system that since September has released 850 inmates early, some of whom committed crimes involving violence or weapons.
After an Associated Press story about the unheralded program was published Saturday, the governor suspended it on Sunday.
"If there's any questions about any kind of procedures or policies that I feel need to be reviewed, I stop it, as I did yesterday, and have a complete review. We'll make sure everything is done right," said Quinn.
The program revealed in the weekend report credits an inmate's good behavior while behind bars. It does not automatically disqualify those convicted of battery and weapons violations.
"This was a secret program to release prisoners for whatever reason. We need some answers and we need them soon," said Dan Hynes, (D) candidate for governor.
State comptroller Dan Hynes, the governor's primary election opponent, says he's "deeply troubled" that Quinn apparently did not know the program existed.
"We need a governor who's on top of the these agencies, who's on top of his own staff to know who's doing what especially when it comes to matters of public safety," said Hynes.
"When Dan Hynes slings mud he loses ground," said Quinn.
The governor brushed aside Hynes' attack. The Quinn campaign was buoyed by the latest Chicago Tribune survey showing the incumbent leading the challenger by a wide margin.
"The voters have made it pretty clear they like my approach to government. I don't think they like the comptroller's negative approach to government," said Quinn.
"Is there something positive about this story? I'm missing that. People are pretty concerned. Eight hundred and fifty people released including some violent criminals…I'm like every other citizen in the state who wants some answers," said Hynes.
The early release program in question is not the one announced earlier this year in which non-violent inmates in the last six months of their sentences are released to electronic monitoring. The governor has ordered his chief of staff and corrections to review the other early release policy. Comptroller Hynes says the review should be completed in a matter of days as opposed to weeks or months.