Inmates denied parole, lack available housing

By Managing Editor

Every year, approximately 1,200 state prison inmates are denied parole because they are unable to secure housing that complies with parole requirements. This process is referred to as “violation at the door,” which affects 1,000 convicted sex offenders and 200 other inmates without a sex crime background, according to a Jan. 25 Chicago Tribune article. 

The Illinois Department of Corrections is required to assist inmates on mandatory supervised release in finding a home but is not required to obtain residential placement for those inmates, according to Supreme Court documents. IDOC is not doing enough to ensure that inmates have the ability to succeed after they leave prison, though. This prohibits the release of inmates from prison. 

Johnny Cordey is the most recently released inmate to challenge “violation at the door.” Cordey spent more than a year in prison after his release date because he could not find housing that met his parole requirements. He was sentenced to 36 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault and was scheduled to be released on parole in April 2013. However, he was taken back into custody at the Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, to serve a three-year term of mandatory supervised release. 

Cordey was finally released on Oct. 14, 2014. He filed a petition Nov. 20 seeking the Supreme Court to rule the “violation at the door” practice unconstitutional because it violated his equal protection and due rights process. However, the Supreme Court decided not to take jurisdiction over the issue because it was better suited for state legislature, according to the court documents. 

Not only does this practice set prisoners up for failure after they have served their sentence, but it also costs taxpayers $25 million annually to keep inmates in prison past their release dates, according to the Tribune’s report.

In an effort to lessen this, IDOC hosts reentry summits, which give inmates the opportunity to learn about economics, religion, employment, housing and other topics that make reintegration back into society easier, according to IDOC’s website. 

However, sex offenders have a difficult time covering costs for proper housing and finding a home that is in accordance with GPS electronic monitoring devices because they cannot live within 500 feet of a school, park or day care center and need to be electronically monitored.

When inmates return to prison after initial release, they are unable to experience the benefits of being on parole or probation, which can help them reintegrate into society after spending years or even decades behind bars. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, inmates are required to follow specific rules and fulfill certain conditions that ensure they comply with the law and do not pose a threat to society while on parole. 

While on probation, inmates are allowed to work in the community, attend counseling sessions and earn money through working at approved locations, all with support from friends and family, according to the American Probation and Parole Association. Probation is essential to reducing crime and ensuring that inmates have an opportunity to learn how to be law-abiding citizens after they are released from prison.

In order to ensure that inmates are released on time and that Illinois taxpayers are not paying for overcrowded prisons, IDOC should implement an extensive housing program that will guarantee inmates are placed in halfway houses or other housing that meets its specific requirements by their scheduled release date. 

Unless such a program is created, the state’s inmate recidivism rates will only continue to grow. It already was the highest in the nation at 51.7 in 2011, according to a June 6, 2014, The Youth Project blog post. 

Inmates are at a higher risk of resorting to criminal activity to make money if they are stripped of the opportunity to gain employment and life skills during their probation period or while living in a halfway house.

The APPA recognizes that inmates are capable of changing their behavior if they are integrated back into society under supervision. Parole can encourage constructive behavioral change when inmates accept responsibility for their actions and their future role in society. However, because IDOC lacks a more comprehensive housing program, more inmates will remain in prison and miss out on the intervention and reintegration process, diminishing their chances of success and the safety of their communities.