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Quinn hopes for major changesto corrections system in state

Steve Kraus DOC Officer in training looks walks the upper cell block of Division 11 at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, Wednesday December 29, 2010. The former Bremen High School wrestler and coach at a couple of area schools is in his final days of training for the Department of Corrections. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make big changes to the Illinois corrections system, including greater use of parole supervision for low-level offenders.

But his administration is struggling to explain how it can do that safely while also cutting back on traditional on-the-streets scrutiny of ex-convicts.

An Associated Press analysis of administration budget documents shows a drop of about 150 positions in the parole division, or potentially a reduction of more than one-third, a number the Corrections Department refuses to confirm or refute.

Quinn’s proposed budget shows that spending on parolee monitoring would decline by $26 million and the number of employee positions would be reduced by 281. But it’s not clear if that’s all parole workers or includes other employees. Comparing that number with other staffing figures, the AP arrived at 148 planned reductions.

Asked for explanations, Corrections issued varying statements: First, that no one would be laid off and budget documents might need to be corrected; then that some field jobs would be eliminated; then that parole services wouldn’t be cut but no guarantees on how many employees would provide them, and that attrition would play a role in headcount reduction.

“While the figures in the budget book may be confusing in regard to the parole monitoring headcount, the department is not reducing parole functions – we are reorganizing the division,” Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

The changes would be part of a 9 percent cut to the $1.2 billion prison system Quinn proposes in the fiscal year that begins in July. AP