Reducing recidivism rates

Illinois Capitol News
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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — One of the biggest problems facing the state’s criminal justice system is the number of people who return to prison.

A state study reveals roughly 43% of inmates return within three years after being released. Experts predict it will cost taxpayers $13 billion in the next five years.

Illinois grappling with a crippling cycle: Too many people are returning to a life of crime after being released from jail.

“I see people all the time that are repeat visitors.”

Sangamon County Assistant Jail Superintendent Terry Durr says it’s so bad, he’s on a first name basis with dozens of his inmates. They’re the reason more than 300 people are flooding his jails daily.

“It’s sad that we have to, but it’s a necessary evil.”

For him, it’s a matter of safety. But, he wishes there was a way to reduce the figures.

“It would take the pressure off and lower our housing issues.”

While saving taxpayer money. According to the Illinois Sentencing Advisory Board, it costs $100,000 each time someone is incarcerated. It’s why Illinois and dozens of counties are trying to fix the problem.

Numbers are down 3% since 2015, but Durr isn’t so sure there will be any more dramatic change.

“I don’t know any amount of programs that are going to change the people we see.”

Some blame lack of opportunity. Though the government has tried to encourage businesses to hire former felons, a ding on a record can be a taboo.

Express Employment’s regional manager says it’s something they’ve tried to address for years.

“It’s a sensitive matter. The sentences that have been most difficult for us to help people are those more significant theft crimes because that is a crime of dishonesty.”

By law, employers aren’t supposed to disqualify candidates if a crime doesn’t threaten job duties. Luckily, she says there are some good Samaritans in the community who openly hire ex-felons.

She’s optimistic the culture will change. She believes soon, more employers will see benefits.

“The more self-esteem an individual has because they’re working every day, I think the benefits are amazing. I think the more people who go to work, the better we’ll be.”

Reducing the prison population has been key for Governor Bruce Rauner. So far, he’s been successful. But, to keep people out of jail, experts say it will require even more resources focusing on mental health and job training.

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