EUREKA — Students in William Lally’s criminal justice class at Eureka College thought home confinement was no big deal — until they experienced it themselves.

“It was kind of depressing being in my room by myself,” said sophomore David Flores of Joliet. “I might as well be in a prison cell.”

Each weekend this semester, one or two students in the Corrections class had a GPS monitor locked to their ankles on Friday afternoon. From 10 that night until they went to their 10 a.m. Monday class, they were not supposed to stray more than 100 feet from the address provided as their place of confinement.

They were permitted up to three hours to attend religious services, but the time and location had to be reported in advance.

In addition, the students could not consume alcohol and agreed to submit to unscheduled visits from their teacher and local police with a portable breath monitor.

“It was pretty tough for me, not being able to go anywhere,” said senior D.T. Thornton of Bloomington.

He lives in a campus residence hall and, he said, “It’s just a small room.” The first day of his confinement was also a balmy March day when other students were outside enjoying the sun.

The idea of simulated home confinement came out of a class discussion. Lally said a student argued, “I’d rather take that over jail any day,” so Lally decided to find a way to have students experience it.

“They understand it’s a learning experience because a lot of these guys want to go into this line of work,” Lally said.

He compared it to police being stunned so they know what a stun gun is like.

Students signed a voluntary agreement to take part and were offered an alternative assignment with no penalty if they declined. He warned them, “It can be invasive,” but all agreed to participate.

Just like real home incarceration, breaking the rules carries penalties.

Any violation results in a drop of two letter grades on their assigned paper; the most they could get on that paper is a “C” if they “violate probation,” Lally said.

So far, only one student has been caught breaking the rules.

“I confronted him and he admitted it,” Lally said.

“I don’t do that just to be a mean professor. They have to understand, if they’re going to assess such penalties …, what it feels like,” he said.

Lally joined the Eureka faculty in August after three years of teaching at Heartland Community College. Before that, he spent two decades in law enforcement, including a stint as Farmington police chief.

He tries to provide opportunities for students to apply what they learn.

“There’s the academic side and there’s the practical side,” Lally said. “The job of an educator is to marry the two.”

Thornton, who wants to be a probation officer, thought the project was helpful because he will be able to say to offenders, “I know how it feels because I went through it.”

Likewise, Flores said the experience gave him “a better point of view” of what offenders go through.

Sophomore Jake Ferguson of Metamora got a little more than he bargained for.

He stayed with his parents on his assigned weekend.

“It was like being back in high school,” he said. “I had to do chores.”

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