Prison Monitoring Project

The John Howard Association's Prison Monitoring Project conducts regular monitoring visits to Illinois correctional facilities.  To read more about our methodology, please click here. To learn more about our prison survey project, please click here.

Most tours include four to six trained volunteers led by JHA staff. Observations from these visits inform  adult facility reports, juvenile facility reports and special reports prepared by JHA, which focus on such critical matters as education, medical and mental health care, disciplinary procedures for youth and inmates, and the physical condition of facilities. JHA reports are circulated to adult correctional and juvenile justice officials, legislators, other individuals in positions of authority and the public at large.​

As identified by the American Bar Association, independent monitoring serves five critical functions:

  1. The public identification of problems in correctional facilities can lead to rectification, resulting in facilities that are safer, operated in conformance with the Constitution and best correctional practices, and are better equipped to prepare prisoners for successful reentry.
  2. Objective observation by an independent entity allows potential problems to be detected that the facility may have overlooked, preventing them from becoming major problems for correctional officials.
  3. External oversight of correctional facilities, and the problem solving that it generates, can reduce costs by proactively averting lawsuits over conditions of confinement and the treatment of prisoners.
  4. The factual findings of independent monitors can help to substantiate the need for funds requested by correctional administrators. 
  5. Public reporting by an independent monitor about what goes on behind prison walls can lead to better-informed decisions about sentencing and correctional policies.

In addition, independent monitoring also works to recognize and publicize positive, innovative programs and initiatives undertaken at individual facilities, which can serve as models for other facilities across the state.