State legislators are digging into the problems facing the Illinois Department of Corrections. An Illinois House committee is exploring what it could do to relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons. State Rep. Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) has introduced a bill to bring back Meritorious Good Time credit that can reduce prison sentences by as much as 180 days. MGT got a bad rap and became the center of a political battle in the 2010 Democratic primary for governor.
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An accelerated MGT program resulted in some prisoners not serving any time at all, if their time served in county jail, plus meritorious good time credit, covered their sentence. The governor suspended the program and it remains mothballed today. Besides Turner’s legislation, which is being held in committee, an amendment to a pending Senate bill would address time toward good behavior. While pushing for the return of MGT, witnesses at a committee hearing also addressed other concerns, including sanitary conditions, food and the amount of lockdown time prisoners currently face. Meanwhile the director of corrections says as prisons are closed – a plan by the governor’s office to save money – existing prisons will be able to handle the influx of inmates.