By Jamey Dunn
After repeatedly defending Department of Corrections Director Michael Randle, Gov. Pat Quinn is now seeking his replacement and facing political fallout as another top staffer makes an exit so close to the general election.
The Chicago Tribune reported early this morning that Randle resigned. Randle took responsibility for the controversial “Meritorious Good Time Push” program, which applied “good time” credit to prisoners’ sentences as soon as they began serving them. Under the program some prisoners served as few as 11 days. The department previously had a longstanding policy that required prisoners to serve at least 61 days before they could receive discretionary early release credit.
“I have accepted the resignation of Illinois Department of Corrections Director Michael Randle, effective September 17. I appreciate Director Randle’s dedicated service to the state of Illinois during these challenging times and will name his replacement shortly," Quinn said in a written statement.
Quinn has said Randle went against his orders by releasing some violent offenders early but defended him while many called for Randle to be fired. “The man made a mistake. He is a nationally recognized expert, and he’s done a number of good things with respect to running our prisons. This is not any easy job,” Quinn said.
Randle said he implemented the program to make required budget cuts. “MGT Push” resulted in 1,745 inmates being released before the usual 61 days. On average, they served 36 fewer days than they would have under 61-day policy. The DoC estimated that “MGT Push” could save $3.4 million annually.
Randle is leaving in the wake of several other high profile departures from the Quinn administration, such as former Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer and former Communications Director Bob Reed.
“There has been quite an exodus,” says Mike Lawrence, former director of the Paul Simon Public Policy institute. “I think [Randle’s resignation] opens [Quinn] up to continuing attacks regarding his management of government.”
He says that plays into the narrative that Quinn is having trouble keeping things under control in his administration. “There’s a feeling that Quinn is not on top of things. He’s been accused of being a micro manager and managerially inconsistent.”
Lawrence, who was also a spokesman for former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, says he think Randle may have been motivated to leave because he could have potentially been on the chopping block. “He probably saw the writing on the wall. If [Sen. Bill] Brady wins [the governor’s race] I think it’s a good bet Randle would have been gone. And Quinn might have let him go after the campaign.”
He thinks there is a good chance that Randle’s replacement will be promoted from with in the Department of Corrections. “[Quinn] did move some of his people into the department, and maybe he will go with them between now and November … and see what happens in the election.”