To attack an all-time high percentage of Illinois inmates imprisoned again soon after their release, the state will reopen a prison with a mission of drug rehabilitation, says the Chicago Tribune. The Sheridan Correctional Facility in LaSalle County, shut in August 2002 during budget cutbacks, will accept its first 50 inmates today. The medium-security facility will get 200 more inmates each month until it reaches its 1,300 capacity.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich billed the reopening as the start of the nation’s largest drug-treatment and community crime reduction program. “The Sheridan project is about public safety,” he said. “We know that drug use is a significant contributing factor in recidivism, and we owe it to our communities to take on this challenge.”
When it reaches capacity, the facility will accommodate only about 3 percent of the state’s more than 43,000 inmates. “It’s a start,” Department of Corrections spokesman Sergio Molina said. He said the move may “make a dent” in the downward spiral of drug use, crime and repeated prison sentences.
More than half of Illinois inmates released in 2000 were back in prison within three years. “That’s just unacceptable,” Molina said, noting that the current 54 percent recidivism rate is the highest on record for the state. It costs the state more than $22,000 per year to house each inmate. About one quarter of state inmates are serving time for drug offenses, and 60 percent of male inmates statewide test positive for at least one illegal drug.
The Sheridan facility will target medium-security inmates who express a desire for intensive drug treatment and vocational education and are projected to be imprisoned for 6 to 24 months.