Quinn Abolishes Death Penalty in Illinois
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
DEATH PENALTY: After weighing arguments from both sides of the death penalty debate for much of the last two months, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today (March 9) signed legislation repealing capital punishment in the state. Illinois joins New Jersey and New Mexico as the only states to legislatively abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. ( New York also repealed its death penalty, but that came via a court decision.) In the weeks leading up to his decision, Quinn heard feedback on the bill from all quarters, including from President Obama, according to the Chicago Sun-Times . During a recent meeting with Quinn and other governors in Washington, Obama praised the legislation, according to a state lawmaker quoted by the Sun-Times .
MEDICAL PAROLE: A partially paralyzed, 57-year-old prisoner shackled to his bed in a Sacramento-area hospital is costing California taxpayers about $800,000 a year in health care and security measures, The Los Angeles Times revealed in an investigation of the state's little-used medical parole law. Two prison guards and a supervisor are required by state correctional policy to be near the prisoner at all times, even though he has a degenerative nerve condition and has been deemed by the state to be "permanently medically incapacitated." "Some of this is ridiculous, but you can't argue with policy," one of the guards watching the inmate told The Times , which found that the state has not paroled some of its sickest and costliest prisoners despite a severe overcrowding and underfunding crisis. The federal receiver who oversees California's prisons, J. Clark Kelso, vowed swift changes based on the Times investigation.
APPOINTEE DUSTUP: Confirmation hearings usually do not involve nominees and their legislative overseers exchanging face-to-face insults. But that's what happened in Texas over Republican Governor Rick Perry's choice to lead the Forensic Science Commission, a state panel that examines the use of forensics in criminal investigations. John Bradley, a prosecutor who chairs the panel now and is vying for another term, acts as if he is "God's gift to us," state Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, said during the hearing. Bradley shot back that the senator's comment is "evidence of your bias," according to the Austin American-Statesman . Democrats have been critical of Bradley's work at the commission, particularly his handling of a high-profile death penalty case in which the state's forensic evidence has been criticized as faulty. It remains unclear whether Bradley will win confirmation for another term.
PRISON REFORM: Republican Senate President David Williams of Kentucky wants Democratic Governor Steve Beshear's job, but the two men agree on prison reform . With the support of Williams — and, indeed, all but one member of the state legislature — Beshear recently signed sweeping legislation that will divert more low-level drug offenders from prison into treatment programs. Kentucky's fast-growing prison population has become a major budget headache for the state, and The Associated Press says the bipartisan reform package "may be the biggest accomplishment of this year's legislative session." The Pew Center on the States, Stateline 's parent organization, advised Kentucky lawmakers on the legislation.