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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2004

Governor Blagojevich launches new “Statewide Community Safety and Reentry Working Group”
Team to build on State’s ongoing efforts to target recidivism

SPRINGFIELD – Today, Governor Rod Blagojevich launched a new “Statewide Community Safety and Reentry Working Group.”  The group will support the state’s ongoing efforts to promote community safety and reduce recidivism at a time when a record 42,000 inmates are projected to complete their sentences and be released into Illinois communities in the next year.  The Governor charged the working group with establishing recommendations for a statewide reentry management plan and targeting the state’s top 10 high-impact regions, which house 84 percent of the state’s reentering parole populations and are traditionally higher crime areas. 
 
“For the past decade, the state of Illinois and our nation have been facing a dangerous and costly trend:  record recidivism rates and record releases of inmates from our prisons.  Over the years, Illinois’ communities have paid the price for rising recidivism rates in many ways – new crimes, new victims, new prison costs funded with taxpayer dollars and weakened communities.  The greatest impact of this vicious cycle can be seen among the top 10 high-impact regions of our state that have traditionally housed the highest populations of returning offenders and the highest crime,” the Governor said.      
 
“Addressing the state’s rising recidivism rate is a long-term public safety and public policy challenge that my administration has taken on from the start, including historic investments in programs that have already begun to show promise such as the Sheridan National Model Drug Prison and Reentry Program and the “Operation Spotlight” Parole Reform Plan. 
 
Today, I hope to take our state’s efforts to fight recidivism to the next level with the launch of a new “Statewide Community Safety and Reentry Working Group” that will target the state’s 10 highest-impact regions that house more than 80 percent of inmates being released from prison.   I have charged this team of leaders with applying all we have learned from model programs here in Illinois and across the nation toward making recommendations for the design of a new statewide reentry management system.   Through this process, the 10 regions will ultimately serve as sentinels for statewide reform efforts and enable us to make all Illinois communities safer and stronger,” he added.  
 
The 10 High-Impact Regions will include:
 
Region                                                                                    Adult Parole Population
Cook/Chicago                                                                          19,561             (59.7%)
Collar County Region (with emphasis on Aurora)                        3,223              (9.8%)
St. Clair/Madison                                                               1,034              (3.1%)
Winnebago                                                                               930                  (2.8%)
Champaign/Vermilion                                                               764                  (2.3%)
Macon                                                                                     638                  (1.9%)
Peoria                                                                                      584                  (1.8%)
Sangamon                                                                                488                  (1.5%)
Rock Island                                                                              251                  (0.8%)
Jefferson                                                                                   105                  (0.3%)
 
Secretary Carol Adams of the Illinois Department of Human Services and Assistant Director Deanne Benos of the Illinois Department of Corrections will co-chair the working group that will consist of a 33-member executive committee.  Members will include federal, state and local leaders from across the state that offer varying perspectives and expertise on offender reentry.  The committee will be comprised of law enforcement officials, elected officials, public policy experts, faith-based leaders, corrections officials, human services providers, substance abuse providers, education leaders, job placement specialists, business leaders, housing activists and ex-offenders. 
 
Through December 2005, the executive committee will be charged with examining current statewide reentry management systems, conducting an assessment of the readiness of the state’s top 10 high-impact regions that have the largest reentering parole populations.  The goal is to safely and successfully manage these reentering parole populations and synthesizing the wealth of best practices and policy on successful offender reentry into recommendations for the infrastructure of a new statewide reentry system. 
 
“First and foremost, the Governor has charged this working group with improving public safety as the state confronts the challenge of record parole populations at the same time as record recidivism rates.  This will require both tough enforcement and smart prevention,” Benos said.  “Over the short-term, this type of reentry management system will make communities safer by equipping them with more tools to crack down on their highest risk returning offenders.  Over the long-term, it will help hold more offenders accountable for taking the proper steps to become crime-free, drug-free and productive citizens from the day they arrive in prison to the day they are released from parole supervision.  In the end, that means less crime and less cost to the taxpayers who would have had to pay $22,000 per year to incarcerate them.” 
 
To support their work, the executive committee will form subcommittees that will hold hearings on five key issue areas proven to impact recidivism and public safety.  The subcommittees include Public Safety; Health and Behavioral Health, which will largely targeting substance abuse and mental health; Employability, Education and Training; Housing; and Faith, Family and Community.  State agency officials and their staff will support the work of these subcommittees. 
 
Ultimately, the Executive Committee will be challenged with issuing a final set of recommendations for review in January 2006 that promote more efficient use of existing state resources to help communities manage the record numbers of reentering offenders as safely as possible through improved service integration and building partnerships that leverage federal, state and local resources.   This goal will be further bolstered by the Governor’s charge to target the top 10 highest-impact regions of the state.
 
“Sustainable community reintegration can become a reality only through employment and training, education, counseling and an array of supportive services that promote citizen restoration and community development,” said DHS Secretary Carol A. Adams, PhD.   “The participants in this process all have a demonstrated commitment to implementing viable programs, toward that end.  This collaboration builds upon the other positive steps Governor Blagojevich has set in motion to reduce recidivism, promote safe communities and build strong families, throughout the state of Illinois.”
 
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, in addition to record prison exits, the State of Illinois is also confronting the highest recidivism rates in state history-- 54.6 percent.  Without positive intervention, projections show that more than one-half of the record 42,000 inmates estimated to be released from prison this fiscal year will be re-incarcerated within three years – after committing new crimes, finding new victims, or violating their parole.  Rising recidivism rates are not a new trend in Illinois’ communities, where they have been on the rise for more than a decade.  Official recidivism rates in Illinois are tracked on a three-year basis.  Therefore, the state’s current recidivism rate of 54.6 percent is based upon tracking inmates released from prison in 2001. 
 
There are approximately 33,000 adult parolees in the process of reentering Illinois communities today.  Among this population, those on parole after serving prison sentences for committing drug offenses account for 42 percent of parolees, committing property offenses that are commonly associated with drug involvement account for 27 percent of parolees, committing violent person offenses account for 21.7 percent of parolees, and committing sex offenses account for 4.2 percent of parolees.  The average parolee has been previously incarcerated at least once, and continues to face significant barriers to a safe and successful reentry such as substance abuse problems, mental health issues, low education levels -- which only 36 percent report are high school graduates or higher -- and poor job preparation skills to enable them to seek honest work. 
 
The Governor’s new “Statewide Community Safety and Reentry Working Group” will build upon progress already being made by two of his administration’s centerpiece initiatives: the Sheridan National Model Drug Prison and Reentry Program, which is the largest state-run program of its kind in the nation and serves as a model for prison-based reentry preparation; and the “Operation Spotlight” Parole Reform Plan, the most aggressive, community-based case management program in state history for reentering offenders.  The ongoing development of both of these initiatives, in collaboration with national, state and local partners, continues to generate new ideas that will serve as a resource to the working group on best practices that may be applied statewide. 
 
The Sheridan National Model Drug Prison and Reentry Program:  Recently cited by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) as showing early indications of reducing rearrest rates among participants by more than 50 percent, the Sheridan Project was developed on the premise that the most successful “reentry” programs begin to prepare offenders for a crime-free transition back to their communities from the day they arrive in prison.  This program, which was announced by the Governor in his first State of the State Address on March 12, 2003, moves drug-involved offenders through an intensive drug treatment, cognitive skills development, vocational education and job preparation program that begins in the prison setting and follows them through their reentry back into their communities under an extensive case management program with heightened parole supervision.  Because it is estimated that as many as 69 percent of all inmates in Illinois prisons were convicted of a drug- or drug-involved offense, and that drugs are a leading factor in recidivism, the Sheridan project aims to establish models for statewide reform in the management of this population from prison to community.   
 
The “Operation Spotlight” Parole Reform Plan:  “Operation Spotlight” is the Governor’s four-year plan to fundamentally overhaul the state’s parole system, which is ultimately responsible for offender reentry management at the community level.  The plan calls for doubling the number of parole agents over a four-year period from 370 to 740, reducing their caseloads, increasing their mandatory minimum contacts with parolees and providing them with improved training on risk assessment and case management.  Ultimately, the goal of the Governor’s plan is to improve both short- and long-term public safety by enabling agents to more quickly determine which offenders pose a risk to public safety and should be reincarcerated, and which offenders require greater case management to facilitate drug treatment, mental health services and job preparedness services that will ultimately move them away from crime and drugs and toward more productive citizenship.  Already, this program has resulted in putting nearly 100 more parole agents to work in Illinois’ communities, more than doubling contacts with parolees in many communities, the development of a new risk assessment tool for parolees, the creation of a new computerized case management system, the establishment of a new case management training program, and the launch of specially-trained units on managing sex offenders and drug-involved offenders working on the Sheridan program. 
 
The first organizational meeting of the Governor’s Community Safety and Reentry Working Group met this morning at 10:30 a.m. at the Illinois Department of Human Services, 401 S. Clinton, Chicago.  At the meeting, the group was presented with a report from Dr. Dave Olson of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and Steve Karr, Director of Planning and Research, Illinois Department of Corrections, on trends in recidivism at both a statewide level and in each of the 10 high-impact regions.  While the meeting was closed to press, the Authority will be available following the meeting to provide interested media with a presentation of their data. 
 
 
 
Governor’s Community Safety and Reentry Working Group
Executive Committee
December 17, 2004
 
Co-Chairs:                  Dr. Carol Adams, Secretary, DHS
                                    Deanne Benos, Assistant Director, IDOC
 
Appointed Members:
1.       Rev. Leroy Smith Jr., Founder, Jesus Cares Ministries of Decatur
2.       Sgt. Luis Gutierrez, President, Hispanic Law Enforcement Association (HISLEA)
3.       Melody Heaps, President, TASC, Inc.
4.       Paula Wolff, Executive Director, Metropolis 2020
5.       Honorable George Timberlake, Chief Judge, Second Judicial Circuit – Jefferson County
6.       Sue Augustus, Director, Corporation for Supportive Housing
7.       Rev. Patricia Watkins, Executive Director, Developing Justice Coalition
8.       Jackie Reed, Executive Director, West Side Health Authority
9.       Tom Johnson, Member, Prison Review Board
10.   Rev. John Crawford, Founder and President, FAITH, Inc. (Designee is Sam Crawford)
11.   Linda Martin, Executive Director, R.I.T.A.S. Ministry
12.   Lou Douglas, Springfield Outreach Coordinator, Gateway Foundation
13.   Tio Hardiman, Ceasefire
14.   Dr. Lance Williams, Assistant Director, Northeastern IL Univ. – Center for Inner City Studies
15.   Dr. Davis Jenkins, Senior Fellow, UIC Great Cities Institute
16.   B. Diane Williams, President, SAFER Foundation
17.   Greg Washington, Executive Director, Grand Boulevard Federation
18.   Darryl McGibany, Director, Madison County Probation and Court Services
19.   Brenda Palms Barber, Executive Director, North Lawndale Employment Network
20.   Michelle Light, Manager of Reentry Initiatives, City of Chicago
21.   Honorable Constance A. Howard, Illinois State Representative, 34th District
22.   Honorable Danny K. Davis, United States Congressman, 7th District, Illinois
23.   Herman Brewer, Program Director, MacArthur Foundation
24.   Jim Noe, Program Manager, Rosecrance
25.   Benneth Lee, Community Liaison and Reentry Specialist, TASC, Inc. 
26.   Rev. Henry Barlow, Founder, Chicagoland Youth and Adult Training Center
27.   Honorable Jeffrey O’Connor, Chief Judge, Civil/Criminal Felony Division – Rock Island County
28.   Howard Saffold, CEO, Positive Anti-Crime Thrust (PACT)
29.   Whitney Smith, Associate Director, Chicago Jobs Council
30.   Chip Coldren, President, John Howard’s Association
31.    Stewart Umholtz, States Attorney, County of Tazewell
32.   John Kowalski, UCAN – Lifeskills Center, Peoria
33.   Tracy Parsons, President, Urban League of Champaign (Designee is Diane Beetz)
 
State Agency Officials and Staff that Will Support the Committee:                             
Dr. Anderson Freeman, Director of Forensic Services, DHS/DMH                              
Theodora Binion-Taylor, Director, DHS/DASA                            
Brenda Russell, Director, IDES (Designee is Sherri Moses)                          
Jack Lavin, Director, DCEO (Designee is Julio Rodriguez)                        
Marva Arnold, Director, DHS/Capitol Division
Steve Guerra, Director, DHS/Community Health and Prevention
Jesse Montgomery Jr., Deputy Director, IDOC/Parole
Rick Guzman, Director of Office of Reentry Management and Community Services, IDOC
Jorge Montes, Chairman, Prisoner Review Board
Lori Levin, Executive Director, ICJIA (Designee is Dave Olson)
Kelly King-Dibble, Executive Director, IHDA


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