Independent prison monitoring is the heart of JHA’s work.
Our staff and volunteers visit approximately 20 correctional facilities every year to evaluate conditions for prisoners and staff. During our observation visits, we focus on issues including medical and mental health care, disciplinary procedures, the physical condition of facilities, and educational and vocational programming. We point out concerns and problems and also highlight productive, innovative programs and initiatives that can serve as models for other facilities.
We publish periodic special reports highlighting case studies, stories and issues impacting our correctional system.
Explore our latest special reports below.
Following herein are some of JHA’s real-world observations made in the process of accompanying and, at times, endeavoring to assist people as they attempted to access critical reentry supports, resources and services following their release from prison.
This report is intended to bring renewed and increased attention to the problems faced by people within IDOC with respect to communications.
This report examines stories of marginalized individuals in relation to criminal justice systems over the course of their lives—in being stopped, searched, arrested, fined, jailed or incarcerated for low level offenses.
Written by an external evaluator, this document examines JHA's Legal Literacy Clinics and their impact.
If you were incarcerated, have a criminal record, or are in pre-trial detention, you still have the right to vote!
The John Howard Association of Illinois had the opportunity to visit the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center (Kane JJC) in June of 2017. Kane JJC, located in St. Charles, Illinois, was built in 1997.
JHA's three-part series of reports focus on increasing independent oversight of Illinois’ juvenile detention facilities and juvenile courts, and ensuring youths’ rights to meaningful access to the courts and counsel are met.
The last year was marked by tremendous progress, worrisome stagnation, and regressive divisiveness. In 2016, there was significant movement on the national and local levels around criminal justice system policy and practices impacting prison reform efforts in Illinois.
From the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women and the Women's Justice Initiative, this report was authored by Executive Director of CORE Associates, Alyssa Benedict, and the Women’s Justice Initiative Founder & Project Director, Deanne Benos.
This memo distills the complexities of the 32-page Rasho settlement agreement (the Agreement) into more understandable terms and clarifies the timelines for implementing certain changes so that the public has the information needed to understand IDOC’s responsibilities under the Agreement’s terms.
Reports and Surveys
Oversight, transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of correctional system reform.
JHA publishes regular reports on prison conditions in Illinois and special reports on issues impacting our correctional system.
Reports are based on our prison monitoring visits, observations, interviews with and written surveys from both staff and prisoners, interviews and information exchange with prison administrators, correspondence from those housed in correctional facilities, and information provided directly by the Illinois Department of Corrections.
We collect voluntary, anonymous surveys of both staff and prisoners during adult correctional center visits. Survey results enhance and amplify our monitoring work by incorporating inmates’ and prison employees’ attitudes and opinions. Survey data provides useful comparisons among facilities and changes in perceptions over time, and is critical to amplifying the voices of prisoners and staff beyond prison walls.
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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.
The Centralia Correctional Center strives to create a healthful environment, which provides the individual inmate a humane and secure term of incarceration. It is a medium security adult male facility. The facility consists of 46 buildings, which comprise of 335,689 square feet. The living units consist of three housing unit clusters with a total of 14 housing units, one receiving unit, one segregation unit and a 15-bed health care unit. The facility sits on 100 acres with 50 acres enclosed by fencing.
Crossroads Adult Transitional Center is located on the west side of Chicago. It is a minimum-security male facility, one of four ATCs remaining within the Illinois Department of Corrections. Crossroads has been operated contractually by the non-profit Safer Foundation for more than 30 years.
Danville Correctional Center is located in Danville, Illinois, about a two and a half hours drive south of Chicago and 40 minute drive east of Champaign at the Indiana border. It is a medium-security male facility that offers notable volunteer educational programs within the Illinois Department of Corrections, including the University of Illinois’ Education Justice Project and the Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary.
Decatur Correctional Center is a minimum-security prison that housed 501 adult female inmateson the day of JHA’s monitoring visit. JHA collected 273 surveys from inmates (54.5% of the population) during our monitoring visit of this prison.
Dixon Correctional Center is a medium-security facility that also operates: the maximum-security Dixon Psychiatric Unit, which serves as the primary psychiatric correctional facility for the Illinois Department of Corrections; a Special Treatment Center for inmates with mental illness or developmental disabilities; and a substantial healthcare unit.
Dwight Correctional Center was the state’s only Level One maximum-security adult female facility. Dwight also housed medium and minimum-security inmates, and handled the intake, classification and processing center for adult female inmates for the entire state. The facility was located in Dwight, Illinois, about one and one half hours southwest of Chicago. It is now closed.
The Dwight Reception and Classification (DRC) served as the intake, classification and processing center for all adult female inmates in Illinois. The facility was housed within Dwight Correctional Center (Dwight), a maximum security adult female correctional center. It is now closed.
East Moline Correctional Center is a minimum security adult male facility. The facility is located in northwest Illinois overlooking the Mississippi River. The facility was converted from a mental health facility in 1980. The facility consists of a total of 26 buildings, which comprise of more than 430,000 square feet. Included at the center are housing units, work camp, administration building, one segregation unit and a 12-bed health care unit.
Fox Valley Adult Transition Center is located in Aurora, Illinois, about 40 miles outside of Chicago. It is a minimum-security female facility and the only female ATC, or work release center, within the Illinois Department of Corrections.
JHA serves as a critical resource and outlet for Illinois prisoners. Incarcerated individuals often have limited access to information from reliable sources and little contact with the outside world. JHA provides a human connection as well as needed information.
We receive more than 6,000 letters a year, and respond to all of them. We provide information about a wide range of criminal justice issues, including where to access information on correctional policies and procedures, statutes, court decisions, legal forms, and information related to litigation. We also provide printouts of JHA-created materials including reports, survey results, and information packets. We acknowledge the issues people write to us about and use what they share to inform our monitoring and advocacy work.
Explore data about our prison response communications program below or view ways to contact us.
Legal Literacy Clinics
JHA provides free, monthly legal literacy clinics to youth at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC).
These clinics help youth and families better understand the complexities of the criminal justice process.
We educate those facing juvenile or adult criminal charges about their legal rights in every stage of court proceedings, using developmentally and age-appropriate, comprehensible language so youth gain a basic understanding of legal terminology and court processes. The program serves to reduce stress and anxiety, promote better communication between youth and their attorneys, and empower youth to advocate for better outcomes.
This one-of-a-kind program operates in collaboration with JTDC staff and administration, attorney volunteers from the Office of the State Appellate Defender, and the Office of the Cook County Public Defender.