Prison officials are frustrated by a revolving door, the seemingly endless supply of inmates returning soon after they are released. The Bloomington (Il.) Pantagraph says that was one reason there was an atmosphere of triumph on the E-Wing of the Decatur Correctional Center, as prison officials, community volunteers, inmates, and ex-inmates marked the third anniversary of an innovative program that allows women to keep their babies with them in prison.
The infants live with their mothers on a unit on which each mother has her own room, with access to large day rooms decorated with colorful murals and outdoor patios. There are plenty of toys and books sprinkled through the unit. Illinois corrections director Michael Randle commended the program, noting it is important that infants bond with their mothers during the first 18 months of their lives. Randle noted that the living unit resembled a day care center one might find outside prison walls. “Of the 25 offenders that have gone through this program, none, zero, have returned to this prison,” Randle said. “That is certainly something you all should be proud of. Today is a celebration of your success.” Inmates who were now living in “the free world” were invited to the celebration, partly to show current inmates what success looks like.