C# Prisoner Facts
By Aviva Futorian & Shaena Fazal
Long Term Prisoner Policy Project
John Howard Association
• There are slightly over 300 prisoners still in prison sentenced to indeterminate sentences prior to 1978, when the sentencing laws changed. They are the only prisoners in Illinois who are still eligible for parole. All are elderly and all have served 30 years or more. They have IDOC numbers starting with the letter “C” – C number prisoners.
• Despite their age, the Prisoner Review Board is letting out FEWER not MORE inmates than previously. In 2007, they released 7. In 2006 and 2005 combined, they released 26.
• Recidivism rate of these prisoners on release is less than 5%, compared with 54% recidivism rate for the general prison population. As inmates age, the recidivism rate gets lower.
• The sentencing scheme before 1978 resulted in most C# prisoners becoming eligible for parole after serving 11 years or less of their sentence, regardless of what their “minimum” sentence is.
• Judges sentenced prisoners under this scheme with the understanding that inmates who were rehabilitated would get out any time after they came up for parole.
• Likewise, inmates sentenced before 1978 understood that they would get out if they became rehabilitated.
• Grant or denial of parole is supposed to be based on the prisoner’s behavior since his or her incarceration. However, too much emphasis is often placed solely on the original crime, and accomplishments which demonstrate rehabilitation are too often overlooked.
• The allegation that policymakers favor prisoners over victims is not true. C# Prisoners are disadvantaged in their quest to obtain parole, even when they have done everything in their power to earn it. The Prisoner Review Board allows the victim’s family members and any other witnesses, for or against parole to attend the prisoner’s institutional hearing and the en banc hearing. But the Board also conducts “opposition hearings” where opponents of a prisoner’s parole are represented by the State’s Attorney. Neither the inmate, nor his family or his representatives are permitted to attend these “opposition hearings,” know what was said there or even be notified of when or where the opposition hearings are held. Thus, any misstatements that are made at these “opposition hearings,” whether deliberately or by mistake, are treated as true.
• Our criminal justice system is designed to serve public policy interests not just those of the victim. It is supposed to balance a number of factors, including the public good, the productivity of society, the interest of the victim’s family, the interest of the prison system, the prevention of recidivism and, even the interest of the prisoner.
• The old parole system created a powerful incentive for a prisoner to behave well, and was therefore a much safer system for the staff and other inmates than the present one. It may also explain why the C# prisoner comes out of prison as a different person and almost never goes back.