CHICAGO - At a time when the state has reached the highest recidivism rate in history of 54 percent, Governor Rod. R. Blagojevich announced today the reopening of Sheridan Correctional Center as the largest fully-dedicated state drug prison and community crime reduction program in the nation. National, state and local experts involved in the planning process of the facility have already begun touting the program as showing great promise to reach its goal of becoming a national model for reducing crime.
In addition to aggressively working to address crime and recidivism throughout all state communities, the reopening of Sheridan Correctional Center will restore more than 400 jobs in the surrounding region of LaSalle County.
“For too long, our state has led the nation in drug crime. Today, we begin our efforts to lead the nation for drug crime prevention,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The Sheridan project is about public safety. Illinois faces the highest recidivism rate in state history. Statistics show that more than half of the nearly 34,000 parolees on the street today will be reincarcerated within only three years after their release from prison. We know that drug use is a significant contributing factor in recidivism, and we owe it to our communities to take on this challenge.”
According to the Department of Corrections, statistics show that approximately 60 percent of all male arrestees statewide and approximately 82 percent of all male arrestees in Chicago test positive for at least one illegal drug. In addition, nearly 25 percent of all state prison inmates are currently serving time for drug offenses, with an untold number of others who are in prison for property offenses, violent offenses or other crimes committed as a result of drug involvement.
“Illinois is to be commended for bringing together strong research and solid correctional planning to design a program that should cut crime, save prison budgets, and reduce drug use. As states around the country look for ways to meet the fiscal crisis without sacrificing public safety, the Sheridan project will become an important guidepost,” said Jeremy Travis, Senior Fellow of The Urban Institute and former Director of the National Institute of Justice, who also served on the planning team.
Sheridan, a 1,300 capacity facility, will target medium-security level offenders in need of drug treatment, and that are projected to serve six to 24 months after good conduct credit is accounted. On Jan. 2, 2004, Sheridan will receive its first 50 inmates, and 200 inmates per month will be sent to the facility until it reaches full capacity.
Offenders participating in the Sheridan program will undergo best practices, intensive drug treatment, counseling and vocational education while in the facility. However, experts involved in the planning of the project – including policy experts, community grassroots organizations, faith-based leaders and law enforcement leaders -- have identified the intensive community safety program following the release of these inmates as the key to the program’s success.
“On behalf of the 17 community organizations of the Developing Justice Coalition, we would like to commend the Governor for truly addressing the root causes of crime that disproportionately impact so many of our communities, and the critical need for successful rehabilitation at the community level. The Governor’s outreach to communities on this scale has been historic in our state, and we are proud to be a part of the Sheridan team,” said Rev. Patricia Watkins, Convener of the Developing Justice Coalition and Executive Director of Target Area DevCorp.
Approximately 600-800 inmates are projected to complete their sentences and be released annually from the program back into their communities. Each of those inmates will undergo the most intensive community reentry and supervision program in state history. Led by an assigned parole agent, a reentry team will work together with communities to move offenders away from crime and toward a crime-free, drug-free lifestyle and honest jobs.
“The re-opening of Sheridan as a dedicated drug treatment facility represents a true innovation in American corrections. The John Howard Association is especially impressed with the comprehensive approach taken to treatment and community reentry in the program plans, and with the adoption of the therapeutic community model, the best proven drug treatment approach we are aware of. The Sheridan Correctional Facility has the potential to serve as a national model for substance abuse treatment in corrections,” said Chip Coldren, President of the John Howard Association, who also served on the project’s planning team.