Quinn hires new safety officer for Ill. prisons

January 6, 2010 2:55:08 PM PST
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has hired a new public safety officer for the state's prisons.The move is an apparent response to his opponent in the Democratic primary, Comptroller Dan Hynes who is running campaigns ads attacking the early release of inmates.

The new state prison public safety officer is Michael McCotter, a 37-year Chicago police veteran. His job is to make sure no dangerous criminals are released early from Illinois prisons and to keep county prosecutors in the loop whenever a convict's sentence behind bars is cut short.

McCotter's hiring did little to calm the political storm surrounding the early release issue.

All early release programs at the Illinois Department of Corrections have been suspended by the governor. And while he's hired a new public safety officer for IDOC to review each inmate considered in the future for early release, the governor would not say when or if the money-saving programs would ever resume.

"We won't go forward with anything until I'm satisfied it will be done the right way," said said Gov. Quinn.

Quinn's primary challenger, state comptroller Dan Hynes, continues running television ads blaming what Hynes calls the governor's mismanagement for the release of some inmates convicted of violent offenses.

"People are frightened about what they are learning and they want to know," said Hynes.

But Quinn, who accepted the endorsement of the machinists union Wednesday, countered with an attack on Hynes' management alleging the comptroller did not act quickly enough to end a $100 million scam in the state's funeral director's trust fund.

"Dan Hynes has a lot of explaining to do...a lot of money was lost because he didn't do his job," said Quinn.

"It's understandable that the governor would want to change the subject from the fact that 1,700 dangerous criminals were released from prison early," said Hynes.

Hynes, who spoke to Chicago's City Club Wednesday afternoon, estimates the state's deficit at $13 billion, $4 billion more than when Quinn took office 11 months ago.

"In this fiscal year alone we will have borrowed close to $6 billion which is more than in the previous four years," said Hynes.

The governor was asked how--in such perilous financial times--the state could afford to hire a new public safety officer for the prisons.

"When a mistake is made, what a chief executive does is correct the mistake and I put in place the necessary repairs to carry out the improvements that are necessary, what I feel are necessary," said Hynes.

The governor could not say at the news conference how much McCotter would be paid.