States Watching Illinois Drug Treatment Prison


The Sheridan Correctional Center, Illinois’s new drug-treatment prison, is being closely watched by other states, says the New York Times. Started 18 months ago in a previously closed prison in Sheridan, Ill., 70 miles southwest of Chicago, the facility will soon be the nation’s largest prison dedicated to drug treatment, a recognition that drug addiction is a major reason inmates are ending up back behind bars. Sixty-nine percent of all inmates are in prison on drug-related crimes.

Across the country, more than 600,000 prisoners are released each year, and about two-thirds return to prison within three years. About 70 percent have drug or alcohol problems, and about 40 percent return to prison because of drug violations. Illinois officials say even small declines in the recidivism rate would save them money in the long term because right now, 55 percent of all prisoners return within three years, and 80 percent are rearrested. The Sheridan unit, a project of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who campaigned in 2002 on a promise to reduce recidivism, costs about $35 million a year. With new construction, it is expected to grow to 1,300 beds, serving about 1,700 prisoners each year. Corrections officials from Kentucky and Louisiana have visited. Nebraska and Iowa are studying whether to dedicate facilities to drug treatment.


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