SPRINGFIELD – An ex-convict accused of killing a man shortly after getting out of prison under Illinois' revamped early-release program hadn't been fitted with an electronic ankle monitor, as he should have been, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
An Illinois Department of Corrections official says an unnamed agency employee failed to follow a Prisoner Review Board order to put 28-year-old Joshua A. Jones on electronic monitoring before setting him free May 3, five months before Jones' scheduled release. Jones was arrested in August for allegedly killing a 22-year-old man outside of a Decatur home.
It's unclear if the electronic monitoring could have prevented the Aug. 15 fatal shooting of Marvin E. Perry, if Jones is responsible, as prosecutors contend. But it raises questions about the handling of a parolee under the early-release program Gov. Pat Quinn approved last year to replace a troubled previous program that almost cost him the 2010 election.
Jones was released under the state's new early-release program for nonviolent criminals after he served 19 months of a four-year sentence for dealing drugs. Under the terms of his release, the Prisoner Review Board ordered Jones to submit to electronic monitoring for six months and to substance abuse counseling, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. A board spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Tom Shaer, a corrections department spokesman, said in a statement that the department began investigating the case in August and determined that one of its parole workers failed to carry out the electronic monitoring order. He said "disciplinary action is being pursued" against the worker, but that he couldn't comment further about it.
Shaer said an employee lapse like this "simply does not happen ... We have no record of it happening for years prior to the Jones parole." He said the corrections department doesn't have a "systemic problem" with its procedures, but would continue focusing on following them properly.
"All employees are regularly supervised and held accountable for their responsibilities," Shaer said.
Shaer previously said Jones was approved for early release last May after close scrutiny at several levels.
The new early-release program, which is designed to reward and encourage good prisoner behavior behind bars, is under scrutiny because of problems with the state's prior efforts. Quinn shut down the earlier early-release program in 2009 after the AP reported that the state had released more than 1,700 inmates, including hundreds who were violent, within weeks of their imprisonment. Some of them committed new crimes after being freed.
The new program, which began in March, precludes the early release of violent criminals. When the AP reviewed initial results in August, fewer than 20 of 1,600 parolees released under the new program – just over 1 percent – were back behind bars.
State Rep. Jim Sacia, a Pecatonica Republican who championed the revamped early-release program in the Legislature, said he was disturbed by the electronic monitoring mistake.
"Everything is as good as the follow-through and apparently, in this case, we had very poor follow-through," Sacia said. "The people responsible for the checks and balances need to be held accountable. To let this happen is unimaginable."
The use of electronic monitoring has proliferated in the U.S. Supporters say problems are rare and the 30-year-old tool is much more productive than old-fashioned street patrols and telephone calls to keep tabs on ex-cons. Some criminologists argue that electronic monitoring acts as a deterrent.
A national survey by the AP this year found tens of thousands of ex-offenders, parolees and others on electronic monitoring – so many that officials were being inundated with alerts and having trouble differentiating between threats and malfunctioning batteries. Shaer said that's not an issue in Illinois.
In Illinois, 2,735 parolees are hooked up to the type of monitor Jones should have been on.
Parolees on electronic monitoring have schedules for when they must be home, at work or somewhere else, Shaer said. If a parolee is not where he or she is supposed to be, a home-based receiver sends a signal to a corrections contractor. If the contractor determines the ex-convict is improperly out of range, parole officials are notified and can have someone search for the parolee.
How effective the monitor would have been in the Decatur shooting is unclear.
The distance between the home address Jones reported to authorities and the shooting is just over a mile – a drive of just several minutes, according to an online map of Decatur. If Jones had had permission to be away from home at the time of the shooting, prison officials would not have been alerted.
Jones, who has not entered a plea to the murder charge in Perry's slaying, has never been convicted of a violent crime. But he pleaded guilty in 2011 to the manufacturing and delivery of crack cocaine, heroin and hydrocodone in exchange for prosecutors dropping an armed violence charge because he had a gun when he was arrested. He was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in 2009, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge and did not serve prison time.
IDOC Supplemental Sentence Credit parolees: http://tinyurl.com/bh78yb4
Contact Political Writer John O'Connor on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apoconnor