Illinois Prison and Jails

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Currently the Illinois Department of Corrections oversees the functioning of 29 incarceration facilities across the state which house over 44,000 inmates. The scope of the department’s authority is not just restricted to adult correctional centers but also goes into the territory of juvenile justice; the state DOC also manages special institutions and juvenile justice centers. Together, these different correctional establishments hold over 75,000 prisoners.

Various facilities across the state of Illinois

Among the most famous correctional facilities in Illinois are the Statesville prison which is based in Joliet, just south of Chicago, Tamms Prison that lies at the southern tip of the state and the Dwight prison for women that is located an hour away from Chicago. Including these, there are:

  • 6 maximum security prisons, most notably among these are the Dixon psychiatric center, Dwight, Tamms and Stateville.
  • 4 Secure medium centers
  • 7 High medium facilities
  • 6 medium security prisons
  • 3 high minimum facilities
  • 4 minimum security centers
  • 13 low minimum facilities that include several work camps and
  • 8 transitional centers

The state also house two federal facilities at Pekin and Marion and the justice department is in the process of adding one more to that list after their purchase of the now defunct Thompson prison.

The differences made to the Illinois prison system from 2009 to 2012

Over the last 3 years, the prison system and the correctional policies have gone through a major overhaul. In 2009, the state was spending nearly a billion dollars to manage the various correctional centers, with an expense of $25,000 per inmate and had added nearly 4000 more offenders to the prison system largely due to the suspension of many early release programs and harsh sentencing structure.

However, in 2012, the DOCs mantra is all about cost cutting and several initiatives have been undertaken to this end, some of which have found favor with prison reformist while others have not gone down well with law makers. At present, there are a number of community based sentencing programs that have reduced the burden of the state’s resources. They have also lowered the number of non violent crimes in Illinois as offenders who are sentenced to a community service program for small misdemeanors are more likely to desist from committing the crime again.

Despite these reforms, almost 50% of the inmates incarcerated in state facilities are serving 6 months to two years

Notorious correctional centers in Illinois

Among the most infamous correctional facilities in the state is the super max Tamms prison which was started in the 1990’sin response to the “let us get hard on crime” wave sweeping through the country.Tamms has long been targeted by human rights watchers and prison reformist who call it a den of abuse and neglect.

Inmates are often kept in solitary confinement for days with no interaction with other offender or their relatives. In the event of an odd visit, the prisoner is literally chained to a concrete bench before he is allowed to sit on the other side of a glass wall to have a chat with his visitor.

Tamms was also the facility where capital punishment was carried out till its abolishment in 2011. Most inmates who are incarcerated at the facility liken it to being buried alive. The center not only holds some of the most dangerous criminals in the state but also those in psychiatric care.

Contact with the outside world is extremely limited; also the facility has no recreational areas for prisoners who are often made to stand in a phone booth sized cell for watching an hour of TV as a reward for good behavior.

While Tamms has long been a bone of contention between the state’s human rights watchers and prison administration, the DOC swears by the efficacy of the correctional center and even states that shifting the more hardened and high risk criminals to Tamms has greatly reduced assaults on prison staff and inmates.

However, in the last quarter of 2012, it looks like the fight over Tamms may soon be a thing of the past as Governor Pat Quinn is determined to close down the facility in his quest to lower correctional spending.

Other Illinois correctional facilities which will also be closed include the Dwight Prison and juvenile detention centers in Murphysboro and Joliet along with at least 3 transitional centers in the state