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Since February 1, 1978 when determinate sentencing was created in Illinois, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board's most significant role has been to provide hearings to determine whether good conduct credits should be revoked, upon the recommendation of the Department of Corrections and whether lost good conduct credits should be restored. Each of these actions has an impact upon a person in custody's date of release to free society.

In addition, the Board determines when to parole remaining persons in custody under the pre-1978 sentencing law, the conditions all persons in custody follow after release from incarceration and whether those who violate conditions of release must be re-incarcerated. The Board also makes executive clemency recommendations to the Governor and decides when to parole youths detained under the Juvenile Court Act.

Fewer than 100 persons in custody remain under the old system. This number has declined from the 16,500 parole cases heard in 1978, the first year of the Board's existence. The number of cases has been reduced by parole release; conversion of old sentences to new sentences under provisions of the 1978 statute; completion of maximum terms of imprisonment; grants of executive clemency; and deaths in prison.

The Board has a specialized unit devoted to victim notification. As of December 2008, approximately 16,211 victims have registered for victim notification. Victims are placed in the program upon request.