Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law Monday that was sponsored by his opponent in the Illinois governor's race, a bill that was designed to draw attention to one of Quinn's biggest scandals.
The new law will require the Department of Corrections to post detailed information on the Internet about prisoners being released early. That information will include photographs of the prisoners, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Republican State Senator Bill Brady sponsored the law, in response to revelations about a secret prisoner-release program run by the Quinn administration. The program, known as "MGT Push" (short for "meritorious good time"), was discovered in December by reporters from the Associated Press. MGT Push secretly shortened prison sentences, paroling convicts months before they would otherwise be eligible.
The scandal grew in magnitude as more details about the program surfaced. Several parolees committed crimes immediately after their release. Some were released early after convictions for violent crimes, a fact the governor says he had no knowledge of.
And just last month, it was revealed that more than 50 MGT Push parolees have disappeared since their release. On average, these prisoners have been off the Department of Corrections' radar for over four months each.
The prisoner-release scandal has already almost cost Pat Quinn his job. Before it broke, he was leading by a wide margin in the polls of the Democratic primary for governor. But the scandal, coupled with a devastating ad released by Quinn's opponent, Dan Hynes, erased the governor's 20-point lead in the polls. In the end, Quinn defeated Hynes by a matter of a few thousand votes, in a race that was too close to call on election night.
Now, his Republican opponent in the general election, Bill Brady, hopes to make him pay on the issue. Brady has repeatedly tried (sometimes more successfully than others) to make MGT Push an issue in the governor's race. One approach he took was sponsoring the new law requiring that all early prisoner releases be made public.
The Chicago Tribune says Quinn signed the measure "quietly." Indeed, there was little fanfare around the signing. Quinn's administration also said that many of the aspects of the bill were already being put in place.
Still, the Brady campaign continued to push the issue even as Quinn signed Brady's bill:
"We believe the governor should have signed this bill promptly instead of letting it sit on his desk for 60 days because of politics," said Patty Schuh, Brady spokeswoman. "Gov. Quinn had a secret early release program that jeopardized the public safety of Illinois, and I suspect he continues to be embarrassed [of] it."
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