Illinois River Correctional Center

Illinois River Correctional Center

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Illinois River is a medium security male facility located approximately three and a half hours southwest of Chicago in Canton.

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Monitoring Reports

Executive Summary

Illinois River’s administrators are focused on programming and want the facility to be known for successful reentry. A current priority is programming that will assist incarcerated fathers to build stronger relationships with their children. JHA applauds this initiative.

Illinois River is also notably partnering with Spoon River College on a new literacy program to provide tutor certifications and literacy education. Since our visit, administrators report that 29 inmates have graduated from the Literacy Tutor Certificate program and in October the first Remedial Literacy Class commenced with 36 students and 12 inmate tutors. JHA commends this collaboration and hopes other facilities will institute such programs.

On JHA’s visit we were impressed by the administrators’ openness with the facility and the attitude that nothing we would hear from inmates would be news to them. JHA was also pleased to hear many inmate compliments for administrators, including that they held staff accountable as well as inmates. Similarly, we were encouraged by conversations with various Illinois River staff members who have adopted the vision for the facility of promoting programming, reentry, and respect, despite the largest problem grieved by inmates being staff conduct and disrespect, followed by medical issues.

Administrators acknowledge that the budget is a challenge to improving inmate quality of life at Illinois River. Budget shortages and overcrowding are issues that go hand in hand. The facility’s population is at twice its design capacity and therefore gets that much more use. Administrators simply do not have the resources to meet the programming needs of the inmate population. This is apparent in the fact that many inmates are waitlisted for educational programming.

Illinois River administrators are proud of their notable Leisure Time Services, which includes intramural sports, an exceptional Arts and Crafts program, a Yoga program, and several inmate bands. JHA visitors were informed that Illinois River’s first warden came from a juvenile facility programming background, and this may have built Illinois River’s culture that promotes such activities. Similarly, the current warden comes from a female facility programming background and is focused on such services and promoting parenting. Illinois River also benefits from exceptional vocational programs.

Inmates at Illinois River have been able to help in the community, for example participating in an annual town Spring Cleaning event, and Illinois River hopes to continue to build rapport with the community. The remote, rural setting of Illinois River can be a barrier to providing more volunteer services and to recruiting staff. However, the city of Peoria is within commutable distance and Illinois River draws some diverse volunteers from this area. Many Illinois River staff have been at the facility since it opened in 1989 and hence the facility faces an onslaught of retirements in the near future.


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