MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - A total of 20 inmates have been transferred to a re-entry center in Murphysboro, Illinois, according to State Rep. Terri Bryant.
"This is a big win for southern Illinois and for the safety of the staff and inmates at Correctional centers across Illinois," Bryant said. "It has taken a lot of effort, pushing and prodding, and a lot of cooperation between state agencies and all the players involved to get this done. I am proud to be a Murphysboro resident, and I am proud to have fought to reopen this facility to help with prison overcrowding and to help reduce recidivism in our prisons. The facility is expected to support 100 permanent good-paying jobs for residents living in the region."
Bryant says the re-entry program will be open to minimum security offenders who are 40-years-old or younger, and with one to three years left in their sentence.
"If we put someone back on the street again with no skills, no money, no support system, they are likely to re-offend and return to prison," Bryant said. "We cannot afford to support this revolving door any longer. We can't just keep cycling people through the correctional system. It simply costs too much money. The goal of the re-entry program is to ensure that each inmate that leaves the facility has necessary life skills they will need to get a job and be a productive member of society when they return to the outside."
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said in February that this is positive for the city. "That's a huge deal," he said. "I think you can ask any mayor in Southern Illinois, any mayor across the country if they'd rather have 65 jobs - or not have 65 jobs."
According to Illinois Department of Corrections, offenders must apply to be transferred to Murphysboro Reentry Center. They must have three years or less left on their sentence, have positive behavior and write an essay explaining why the center would help them not recidivate. The mayor says It's supposed to be the Department of Corrections which means we are supposed to correct their behaviors and build them up"
The IDOC says this is part of Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to reduce the prison population and restructure the state's criminal just system. An Illinois lawmaker says the former Illinois Youth Center will reopen as a non-violent offender facility.
The facility sits away from residential homes, so the mayor says he does not believe safety is a problem.
"I understand these are nonviolent offenders, these are not people that are serving sentences for murder." Stephens said the city will not have to worry, "I think we will provide the proper security for the area."
Mayor Stephens says the city will likely see an increase in sales tax revenue, and a new water customer since the city will provide water. "I'm very happy that it's going to be reopening, it's the right thing policy-wise and it's good for Murphysboro without question," Stephens explains.
IDOC says the goal for the facility is help offenders readjust to society. So, the center will offer educational, job readiness and cognitive behavior therapy courses to the offenders. They will learn skills that help them readjust to society, like how to manage a bank account, use the latest technology and schedule medical appointments.
"When you reduce your recidivism rate, which is what his facility will do, it will ultimately reduce taxpayer cost to run prisons as a whole," Stephens said.
"It won't just help Murphysboro, it'll help Carbondale, it'll help Pinckneyville, it'll help the region in general because we know the economic impact isn't under a bubble that's just over Murphysboro," he said.
This is the second facility of its kind. The Department launched its first Life Skills Re-entry Center in the small town Kewanee, Illinois last February.
State Rep. Terri Bryant says the facility in Murphysboro will become a minimum security male facility, according to her website.
According to Bryant, 63 correctional officers from Pinckneyville were in training on January 29. According to Bryant's Facebook page, Anita Ramsey has been named Assistant Warden.
The cost to reopen and repurpose the facility is approximately $500,000. The annual expenses are projected at approximately $8 million.