BLOOMINGTON — Parents incarcerated in the McLean County jail will have the option of seeing their children and other loved ones during video visits when the jail addition is completed in September.
The new system "will not only be beneficial to jail staff, but to those who aren't as mobile and can't come here for visits," said McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage.
Putting inmates in front of a monitor that links them to their children has long-term positive benefits, said Dawn Beichner, professor of criminal justice sciences at Illinois State University.
Last week, Beichner and graduate students Alyson Ford, Tanisha Brady and Lashanti Brown delivered an updated resource guide to Sandage for inmates returning to the community.
The opening of the new jail addition with its units for women and inmates with special needs has the potential to improve inmates' lives during their incarceration, said Beichner.
The demands on staff makes the use of community volunteers a critical part of the improvements.
"We have to rely on these community partnerships," said Beichner, whose program will provide personal journals and other tools that women can use on their own at the jail.
The video visits are a positive step toward bringing mothers and fathers together with their children, said Beichner.
"This allows a level of intimacy you can't replicate when you are behind glass," she said.
The majority of jail detainees will be released to serve community-based sentences. McLean County has seen a 40 percent decrease in the number of people sent to state prison over the past several years.
Incarcerated women face unique challenges, according to a 2014 study of the jail's female population by Beichner's graduate program. Data collected from 278 jail records indicated that 44 percent of the women were mothers of 115 children, ranging in age from 1 to 8 years old.
The study also found that women have higher rates of mental illness and trauma backgrounds than their male counterparts.
Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny