In 2003, the Illinois prison population was on the rise, thanks in part to record numbers of return offenders mostly because of drug and drug-related crimes. Gov. Blagojevich implemented initiatives such as the drug treatment program at the Sheridan Correctional Center and an increase in the number of parole officers statewide. According to the Department of Corrections, the initiatives are now showing results. The number of new convictions among parolees has decreased by more than 18 percent from fiscal years 2004 to 2007, with arrests of parolees declining by 23 percent during the same period.
Because of the reduction in repeat crimes, taxpayers have saved an estimated $64 million in prison costs since 2004, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The governor will announce the findings Monday at St. Leonard’s Ministries — a transitional housing program on Chicago’s West Side. “It’s very uncommon for states to be able to reduce their overall recidivism rates,” said Deanne Benos, assistant director of the Department of Corrections. “This was a 20-year trend that we were dealing with, and it took some time. But the programs are really starting to take hold.”