A prison watchdog group says Illinois' mushrooming prison population could force some inmates to wait years for substance abuse treatment programs, reports the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Ia. The Chicago-based John Howard Association says the decision of Gov. Patrick Quinn to curtail a controversial early release program last year is causing fallout at the all-female Decatur Correctional Center.
With fewer inmates leaving the prison, long waits are now common for inmates wanting help with substance abuse. The association says 120 inmates at Decatur are enrolled in a substance abuse program and a “staggering” 262 are on a waiting list. “At more than double the enrollment, inmates can potentially spend years on the wait list before they are finally enrolled,” says the group. Deb Denning of the Illinois Department of Corrections contests the findings, saying waiting times may range from 60 to 90 days. Since the early release program was ended last year, the number of inmates now tops 48,500, up from 45,000 just two years ago. Decatur was built to house 500 inmates, but now holds more than 700.