SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Director Roger E. Walker, Jr. today congratulated 19 parole agents at a graduation ceremony held in Springfield. Including this latest class of agents, the second graduating class of the year, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Operation Spotlight Parole Reform Initiative has resulted in placing more than 100 new parole agents in communities and more than doubling contacts with parolees in many communities. The Governor launched Operation Spotlight in 2003 as way to increase supervision and monitoring of parolees in an effort to reduce crime.
“Inmates and parolees are now given more opportunities for successful crime- and drug-free reentry into society than ever before in the state’s history,” said IDOC Director Roger E. Walker, Jr. “Today’s new parole agent graduates will help support that mission and improve public safety in our communities.”
During a newly developed intensive “Operation Spotlight” 8-week training program designed to tighten supervision and improve case management, parole agents underwent a regimen of physical and classroom instruction as well as firearms, case management and computer training. The computer training provides them with the technological mobility to be out in the community while monitoring and supervising parolees using a new computerized case management and tracking system that was developed this year as a part of the Governor’s long-term Operation Spotlight Parole Reform Plan.
Parole Agent Class P2 began training Oct. 24, 2005, and is the second class to graduate in 2005 under the new “Operation Spotlight” training program. The 19 new agents join the 17 agents who graduated in September 2005. By the end of Fiscal Year 2006, the authorized parole agent headcount is expected to be 471. All 35,000 parolees receive direct supervision in the community.
The new agents have been assigned to the following parole offices to monitor and supervise parolees:
District 2, Rockford - 1 agent
District 3, Champaign, Decatur, Springfield - 6 agents
District 4, E. St. Louis and Southwestern - 7 agents
District 5, Marion - 5 agents
Each parole agent takes an oath of office and receives a certificate of completion by IDOC. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board certify the training.
In his first State of the State Address, Governor Blagojevich announced the launch of his four-year plan to transform parole. This plan aims to reduce repeat crime among convicted felons on parole over the long-term by improving three areas: increased parolee contacts, more effective risk assessment and support, and improved cooperation with local law enforcement, service providers and the community. The plan is also designed to reduce parole agent caseloads and provide new case management training, risk assessment and graduated sanction tools that empower agents to effectively steer offenders away from crime and drugs and toward honest work and productive citizenship.
Through this increase in parole agents, the Governor also has launched the most aggressive sex offender parole supervision program in history. Today, specially trained agents are now supervising the state’s paroled sex offenders. In addition, IDOC implemented a GPS (Global Positioning System) pilot, which uses satellite technology to track high-risk sex offender parolee movement. As part of the parole monitoring efforts, IDOC also has increased the number of parole compliance check operations throughout the state.
“IDOC additionally has launched seven ‘Spotlight Reentry Centers’ in high-impact regions that serve as resource centers in providing counseling, programs and services to support parolees’ transition into society,” Walker said. “These centers also offer a highly structured Day Reporting Program that offers an alternative sanction for non-violent, parole violators.”
The agency’s parole efforts also support the Governor’s Sheridan National Drug Prison and Reentry Program. Today, Sheridan is moving drug-involved offenders through an intensive drug treatment, cognitive skills development, vocational and job preparation program. The program begins in the prison setting and follows through reentry, and back into communities under an extensive case management program with heightened parole supervision.
“Nearly 69 percent of the state prison population is estimated to have been incarcerated for a drug-involved crime,” Walker said. “In recognizing that drugs are a leading cause of recidivism, the Governor opened Sheridan in January 2004, which is designed to be the largest fully dedicated state drug prison in the nation.”
In a recent evaluation, the Sheridan program was reported to have maintained a nearly 50 percent lower reincarceration rate than comparison groups. In addition, a larger percentage of Sheridan program participants are becoming employed and getting employed sooner, compared to other parolees. More than 54 percent of Sheridan parolees were verified to be currently working, and most of them full-time, while a 30 percent average of other parolees self-report working at any given time during the year.