Big Muddy Correctional Center

Big Muddy Correctional Center


Big Muddy River Correctional Center is a medium-security male facility, located in Ina, Illinois, about five hours southwest of Chicago and three hours southeast of Springfield. Big Muddy is designated within the Illinois Department of Corrections to house inmates who are civilly committed as Sexually Dangerous Persons.

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Monitoring Reports

Executive Summary

Big Muddy houses approximately 1,900 inmates in a facility designed to house 952 when it opened in 1993. As the average length of remaining sentences for inmates at Big Muddy is about three and a half years, administrators emphasized that reentry and programming are priorities. They stated once an inmate makes the determination he wants to change, they must provide him with the tools to do so.

Nonetheless, administrators report their greatest challenge is to continue to provide needed services while financial issues force the department to make budgetary decisions that adversely affect programs. Many exceptional, dedicated staff members at Big Muddy run programming while facing tremendous adversity and a chronic lack of vital resources.

Since 2010, sex offenders have composed more than half of Big Muddy’s total population. Of these inmates, 173 are designated Sexually Dangerous Persons (SDPs) who are civilly committed to IDOC custody until determined to be “recovered.” Staff stated that age is not a factor for determining recidivism risk; SDP participants have included an inmate over 80 years old, and may be as young as 17. SDPs are rarely released. Hence, the difficulties of SDP inmates and their aging population are largely analogous to those of other inmates who are “older, sicker, and staying in prison longer than ever before.”

Sex offender treatment, and civil commitments in particular, raise many important and difficult questions about risk of recidivism, treatment success, and cost. These questions lack informed answers, as research data, where it exists, is controversial. Although SDP civil commitments have survived court challenges and JHA supports sex offender treatment, we must question the appropriateness of these placements where they are dependent on scarce IDOC resources, where treatment staffing is inadequate, where some disabled individuals may lack resources to meaningfully participate in treatment, and where alternative sex offender management approaches may prove effective.

Another concern at Big Muddy is that inmates reported little confidence in the grievance procedure, as JHA has noted throughout our monitoring of IDOC facilities. However, JHA found the number of grievances recorded by Big Muddy to be incredibly low and we received several reports of retaliation for complaints. Administrators stated that in early 2013 they started to track grievances, remarking that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

This report addresses the following: Sex Offender Treatment, Inmates with Disabilities, Grievances, Staffing, Supplement Sentencing Credit, Healthcare, Educational and Vocational Programming, Library, Substance Abuse Treatment, Reentry, and Demographics.

Executive Summary

Aging sex offenders, a medical staffing problem, far too crowded, but still holding it together.

On July 28, 2010 four representatives of the John Howard Association conducted a monitoring tour of Big Muddy River Correctional Center. Big Muddy is a medium security prison located 290 miles south and west of Chicago. The prison houses 1,850 inmates, about half of them sex offenders as well as a unique group of individuals designated as Sexually Dangerous Persons.

The JHA representatives found problems generic to nearly all prisons operated by the Illinois Department of Corrections. The prison is crowded far past its design capacity. For more than two years an essential medical position has sat vacant. There are not enough educational and vocational training programs for inmates.

Nevertheless, Warden John Evans and other prison management appear to cope with these and other issues as well as can be hoped. The warden seems intent on fixing problems and improving conditions.

The remainder of this report will review the problems and accomplishments at Big Muddy and offer observations and recommendations.

Survey Reports