Governor Quinn should answer WBEZ's questions on prisons

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Governor Quinn delivering his State of the Budget address to the General Assembly earlier this month.
  • AP Photo/Seth Perlman
  • Governor Quinn delivering his State of the Budget address to the General Assembly earlier this month
For nine months, Governor Pat Quinn has been ducking Rob Wildeboer, criminal and legal affairs reporter for WBEZ. Wildeboer has reported relentlessly on a subject too often avoided: the quality of life and the rehabilitation programs—or lack of them—in Illinois's overcrowded prisons. The governor's press office has denied his requests to talk with Quinn. The most recent response from Quinn's spokesperson to Wildeboer: maybe the governor will talk with you in two months.

In one of several illuminating stories this week, Wildeboer voiced concerns about the care Wexford Health Sources is providing in the prison system's 27 facilities. The John Howard Association, the state's prison watchdog, raised similar questions in a report last year, pointing to "insufficient external oversight" of prison health care—oversight that would seem important given the $1.36 billion Wexford is being paid over ten years. Wexford, too, has declined to talk with Wildeboer.

In another story, Wildeboer documented what it's like to leave prison, with ten bucks and a train ticket, with few possessions but "a lot of baggage." Most of the 33,000 prisoners released each year return to Cook County.

On WBEZ this morning, Wildeboer said he'd "clearly been spectacularly unsuccessful" in getting Quinn to answer his questions about crowding and health care, and he sought his listeners' help. He directed them to the station's website, where a link can be used to e-mail questions to Quinn about the state's prisons—Wildeboer's questions or others.

Here's that link. I encourage you to ask the governor to stop ducking and to talk with Wildeboer. There are 49,000 people in the state's penitentiaries. Their quality of life is an issue that's politically easy to ignore, but ignoring it is wrong.

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