SPRINGFIELD – Governor George H. Ryan today announced the reinstatement of vocational programs offered by community colleges at Department of Corrections facilities. The decision was made after continued discussions between the Bureau of the Budget, Department of Corrections, Illinois Community College Board and Department of Employment Security staff regarding alternative funding.
“The declining economy and the events of September 11 resulted in very difficult and painful budget cuts for states across the country,” said Governor Ryan. “The decision to cut vocational and educational programs at corrections facilities was not easy and I asked the agencies involved to think of other ways that we might be able to continue to provide rehabilitative programs to prepare inmates for their return to society.”
The $4 million needed to continue these programs will come from federal dollars procured by the Department of Employment Security through the Workforce Investment Act grant program. Further review of the grant program by Corrections officials and the Governor’s staff determined vocational programs in prisons could qualify for the funds.
The continuation of these programs will provide instruction and training for both adult male and female inmates in building trades, culinary arts, commercial custodian, horticulture
and auto mechanics courses. Additionally, the Department of Corrections’ highly touted “Helping
Paws” program will continue. The Helping Paws program provides vocational training to female inmates who learn how to train dogs to assist physically disadvantaged people.
The vocational programs provide training assignments for about 2,500 inmates at a time. Inmates not on a work assignment like the vocational training spend their time in their cells. Numerous research studies indicate released offenders who have completed vocational training are less likely to return to prison than offenders who choose not to participate in the courses.
“These programs provide valuable, productive inmate assignments and provide a safer environment for inmates and staff alike,” said Corrections’ Director Donald Snyder.
The vocational and educational programs were scheduled to halt operations on January 18, 2002. The closing date would have allowed college staff to prepare final reports and course grades and submit these reports by January 31, 2002, the last scheduled day of operation for the program. In addition to the restoration of the post-secondary vocational program, the Governor has asked and expects that community colleges will make every effort to continue as much of the post-secondary education programs as possible.
"Today's announcement means a great deal to our program and to the 75 full-time employees," Bob Luther, President of Lakeland College said. "This underscores the fact that this Governor believes in education and we are hoping that this will help in turning peoples lives around."
Securing the grant funds will cancel layoffs for vocational instructors and other staff from 10 community colleges across Illinois.