CHICAGO– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a $58,000 federal grant to fight recidivism among women offenders in North suburban Lake County. The grant will allow several community organizations to provide education and counseling services to 75 adult women probationers, helping them rebuild their lives and avoid being sent back to prison.
“This is an investment that will pay off over the long term as these women get the skills and support they need to make good choices and live clean, productive and crime-free lives. Their success means success for the families and communities they’re a part of,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The grant will support the Community-Based Transitional Services for Female Offenders Program in Lake County. Through education and counseling, this program helps women probationers deal with the causes and effects of the incidents that sent them to prison as they try to rebuild their lives.
Community organizations participating in the program will provide specific education and counseling services to the women probationers, helping them to recognize the symptoms of trauma; building healthy relationships; developing domestic violence safety plans; and recognizing the need for treatment. Additional services provided by the program include psychological testing and trauma counseling.
Lake County, on behalf of the 19th Judicial Circuit, will receive federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADAA) funding, administered by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), to support the state-monitored program.
Kids Hope United has been selected as a service provider to oversee aftercare services for program participants in Lake County. The program will provide psycho-educational group services to 75 voluntary participants through September 2007. Groups of 15 probationers will meet weekly with probation officers, psychological services personnel, and treatment facilitators for about two months.
“This program will work to change the way women probationers respond to situations in their lives,” said Lori G. Levin, ICJIA executive director. “By helping these women change the way they think, they will become empowered to take charge of their lives and make the right decisions to stay out of the system for good.”
Lake County arrest records indicate that a large percentage of women probationers receive their sentences for theft, driving under the influence, and drug offenses. The data also indicate that most women offenders are victims of trauma and unable to escape a life of violence, often facing issues involving mental health, homelessness, substance abuse, lack of childcare, and physical and psychological harm.
Kids Hope United staff will educate group participants to deal with the causes and effects of violent incidents in their lives. Each participant will take a trauma symptom inventory test to guide counselors in making individualized treatment referral recommendations. The program aims to help probationers understand how they may have been affected by traumatic experiences and how those traumas may continue to affect the decisions they make, especially without treatment and supportive services.
Local agencies including Lake County Women’s Residential Services, Haven, and Samaritan House, will provide substance abuse programs. Domestic violence shelters, such as Safe Place, will be available for assistance. Group leaders will remain in contact with participants who complete at least two months of the program, and will offer crisis intervention assistance as needed.
Major issues that make it hard for women to use the community outpatient services identified for them include the need for childcare, transportation, housing, and other services. Probation department staff will work to resolve each individual participant’s problems to help them complete their educational treatment program.
Since 2003, Gov. Blagojevich has launched several initiatives to help fight recidivism across the state. Reducing recidivism is a key step towards lower incarceration costs, lower crime rates and building safer communities.
Last year, the Governor announced that the statewide juvenile parole technical violation rate has dropped by more than 15 percent, the largest one-year decline on record, bringing the number to its lowest rate since FY 2000. The dramatic decline was the result of the Illinois Department of Corrections Juvenile Division’s efforts to improve social and educational services for incarcerated youths.
The Governor also announced in 2005 that the Sheridan National Drug Prison and Reentry Program launched in 2004 has helped over one half of program participants find and maintain honest employment, making the program more successful than comparison groups of offenders that exited other prisons from across the state. Offenders at Sheridan undergo an intensive drug treatment, cognitive skills development, vocational and job preparation program that helps them transition successfully back into society. To date, nearly 2,300 inmates have participated in the Sheridan program. The program has maintained a 50 percent lower reincarceration rate than comparison groups.
Additionally, the Governor also announced last year that an incarcerated veterans program, which, since 2004, has helped dozens of veterans at the Sheridan Correctional Center find jobs, housing opportunities and affordable healthcare after leaving prison, has now been expanded to the Taylorville, Dixon, Shawnee and Vienna Correctional Centers.
Also in 2005, the Governor launched the Community Safety and Reentry Commission to address recidivism and strengthen reentry management. The Reentry Commission is chaired by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Peoria State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons. The goal of the Commission is to develop recommendations that build on successful programs for the design of a statewide reentry system and targets the top 10 regions of the state where the greatest number of ex-offenders are returning home from prison.