BLOOMINGTON — Positive change in the nation’s prison system can only take place when people set aside commonly held misconceptions about crime and punishment, the leader of a prison watchdog group told an audience gathered for a Martin Luther King Day event at Illinois Wesleyan University.

The assumption that punishment must be prison ignores the reality that incarceration is just one method of dealing with offenders, a means that often produces expensive and ineffective results, said John Maki, executive of the John Howard Association of Illinois.

“Prison is good for incapacitation but not good at deterring crime or rehabilitation,” said Maki.

The director of the Chicago-based group that monitors the state’s prisons and issues reports and recommendations was joined at the Hansen Student Center by Bob Sutherland with the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Sutherland spoke on progressive reforms to the local criminal justice system.

The notion that prisoners are either monsters or saints adds to the reluctance by policymakers to reform a system that now holds 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S., an incarceration rate that tops any other country in the world, said Maki. The JHA mission to study and reflect on prison conditions is based on the philosophy that “no one is reducible to the worst thing they’ve done,” said Maki.

Maki applauded McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery for “doing some phenomenal things” to address the needs of mentally ill inmates housed at the McLean County jail. Emery’s initiative is part of the work of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to consider issues within the local justice system, including the jail population.

Sutherland recounted the 15-year endeavor by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and others to find a solution to chronic overcrowding at the jail. A study spearheaded by Emery with cooperation from other county officials in 2009 resulted in changes that have kept the 241-bed jail population in check and the county from housing any inmates in neighboring jails for more than a year.

One of the goals of the CJCC, founded in 2009, was to examine who should be incarcerated, said Sutherland.

Two McLean County programs — the Recovery Court and Drug Court for defendants with mental health and substance abuse issues — offer options other than jail sentences, noted Sutherland. Those options, combined with educational opportunities available for jail inmates, can reduce the number of repeat offenders, said Sutherland, who also serves as a member of the CJCC.

“If we shun them or turn our backs on them, we are simply inviting a downward spiral that will result in recidivism,” he said.

(7) comments

frank4052
frank4052

Loot to Sheriff Joe in AZ, built a tent city, no frills no extras, no smokes, little TV, No mags. should not be a place you want to come back to. The jails are like country clubs. And our military live in tents is freezing cold and 117 deg heat so is good for prisoners. And really cheap to house. Take a hint from Sheriff Joe on feeding them also. I know some who have been there and they try very hard not to go back. Could just give the death penalty for all major crimes and only 2 years to retry before they serve the death penalty.

societyneedsaenima
societyneedsaenima

let me say this, many youth offenders are serving 2, 3 and 4x's their maximum time to serve.

A youth in ILLINOIS can not serve more time than an adult who commits the same crime.
I can tell you right now I know a young man who at age 14, was to serve 11 months max, and he is currently 17 and he is being told he must serve til age 21 for a 11 month sentence. Yes 7 yrs for a 11 month sentence - and at whose expense? the tax payers!!

exrepub
exrepub

I am wondering just who is in jail. I know of someone who stole over 30,000 worth of stuff and got a few months in jail. And we hear of many who have killed someone and they are out after only a couple of years. So who is in there? Another did something to babies at daycare. It seems like you can do a lot. So who is there to begin with? It seems that instead of going to the right direction in reducing arrests for silly crimes we are letting people off for major crimes.

earlyriser54
earlyriser54

If you are so ihterested in what crimes people are serving time for all you need do is llok up the IDOC website and to to inmate search. It gives you the crime the person is serving time for, the sate they entred the system, the length of time of their sentence, the day they are projected to be released on parole, what county they were convicted from, and the complete discharge date from parole. As I look through this site I see far amore people serving time for serious crimes than non serious crimes. So before you start blowing off your mouth wiht your liberals BS why not educate yourself with a few facts and leesen your appearance of blatant ignorance.

societyneedsaenima
societyneedsaenima

Really Earlyriser54
go ahead and try to pull up a website showing juvenile offenders...you can't!
Juveniles and parents are not given access to a website to see their offense, their time to serve, their projected parole date. etc....
I know a kid who did $100k in arson and was given 6 months in prison and released on no parole. Then I know a kid who was wrongfully convicted (after the sentencing another kid came forward and told of the police forcing him to lie against the kid who was sentenced to prison) this kid was convicted for being involved in burglary of $20 in candy - the sentence - the boy was 14 and he was crime would be 11 months if he was an adult - this boy has to serve til age 21 --- 7 yrs for $20 in candy he was not even the state of IL when it happened - he was out of state because his family had a family member drown and he was goneto missouri when the crime happened.
ILLINOIS IS MESSED UP - judges do not follow laws which tell how to sentence juveniles and parole agents and juvenile prision system is also messed up across the board!

newdays
newdays

I would like to enlighten you with the end the next part the young mans life that societyneedsanenima spoke of: I am a family member of a former inmate housed at kewanee and I can tell you very clearly: THIS BOY WILL NOT RECIEVE TREATMENT, PROPER MEDICATIONS, SCHOOLING, ETC. AT THIS FACILITY. I was involved with this place for nine months until my grandson hung himself in the facility. They locked him down in a cell, no clothes, no contact except a face peering through a small glass in the door every 15 minutes to make sure he was alive. No tooth brush, wash cloth, soap, toilet paper for 5 days until our Attny arrived. They then got him out of that hole and cleaned him up for viewing. To this day we have not recieved the record of what happened that day. I have met the boy who saved his life..it only took 10 minutes of screaming, beating on steel doors by him and others to get a gaurd to respond. They cut him down from a tv support mounted on the wall above the toilet in his cell. I sent the govenor a thank you email for building a gallows in his cell. Twelve other boys died in the care of Illinois in the prior 4 years to my grandsons attempt to take is life. My grandson is also a victim of the Sept 7th school incident. He is facing two felony charges and more for defending the safety of another student when the students were moved to the near bye church. He unlike this young man is being charged as an adult even though he to has major disabilities that are even recognized by Social Security. I pray for both of these young men and the people who are in charge of their futures.

otis1949
otis1949

perhaps we should cut their legs off and double bunk them I would think there would be a need for fewer guards alsolls wouldn't have to be so tall and probably wa

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