JEFFERSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The debt crisis in Illinois forces a Heartland college to end a relationship with the state. Come next year Rend Lake College will no longer provide vocational programs at three area prisons.
Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Information Nathan Wheeler says the state is currently behind in about $200,000 of payments.
That bill is for vocational programs taught through RLC at Big Muddy and Inconceivable prisons along with at the Du Quoin Impact Incarnation Center. Those classes include culinary arts, horticulture and construction.
But those classes come at a cost. A cost, that Wheeler says, Rend Lake College can no longer carry for the state and still maintain quality education on campus.
"Our responsibility for the students with our campus supersedes provisional programming at correctional facilities," Wheeler said.
But John Maki, with the prison watchdog group, the John Howard Association says Rend Lake College's decision comes at no surprise. He says many vendors that do business with IDOC face similar late payments. Still Maki says to keep prisoners currently behind bars out once they leave, education is the best savings for taxpayers.
"These people come back out and if we don't spend money in prison, we're going to spend more money when they get out of prison, when the commit new crimes," Maki said.
Rend Lake College Board Chairman Bryan Drew says currently they're in talks with another community college in taking over the program. Drew says if the talks go through, he's confidant the people employed under the program will keep their jobs.