Jefferson County, IL sheriff grants inmates a second chance

Jefferson County, IL sheriff grants inmates a second chance
Updated: Jul. 20, 2018 at 5:09 PM CDT
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Inmates in a Jefferson County, Illinois Jail are receiving a second chance to rehabilitate themselves.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is offering nonviolent offenders a voluntary option to work in their Work Camp Program.

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One of the youngest sheriffs in the state, Travis Allen, had the idea to rehabilitate non-violent offenders by giving them this option.

"We started focusing on helping the community, helping schools, helping the non-for-profits, but at the same time the big part was to help rejuvenate and help offenders," he said.

Inmate Eric Cates says he's been at Jefferson County jail for two months. He was transferred to Indiana, due to a lack space, according to the Sheriff.

"Thinking the same way and doing the same thing; [things] are not going to change," Cates said. "This right here is a change." With a new change of pace, Cates and five other inmates were painting an Summersville Grade School's library as a part of the Work Camp program.

The sheriff said he only allows the inmates in the school to do work over the summer when children are not there.

"It's actually a really good program," Cates said. "I enjoy it. It sure beats sitting in the cell all day. It gives you something to look forward to."

"Take offenders, teach them skills, make them productive members of society because if not, they are just sitting in prison rotting away costing the taxpayers monies, away from their families," said the sheriff. "It's terrible for everyone involved."

Cates said that he has been away from his kids for a year and he's ready to get back.

"A lot people take a lot of stuff for granted this program, being able to go outside and help with the community and do something good a nonetheless act definitely helps," he said.

Sheriff Allen said he makes sure this camp does not take work away from local contractors. In addition, the sheriff checked with the schools and unions to make sure everyone is on board.

According to the sheriff, more than 45 percent of Illinois offenders return within three years of being released. That is what is said needs to change.

"Prison is not working, putting people in cages and locking them up is not the answer, and I don't think nobody knows the 100 percent answer, but we have to start trying new things, he said. "We've been doing this 100 years and it's not working, why do we keep doing it."

Allen would like to see this program implemented statewide.

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