Since opening last year, the Kewanee Life Skills Re-entry Center in western Illinois has taken a different approach to prison. Inmates participate in classes and activities designed to help them succeed after they’re released.
Speaking on the talk show “The 21st,” Illinois Department of Corrections director John Baldwin says it’s clear that investing in these programs leads to better outcomes.
“We are fundamentally moving towards an outcome-based system of corrections, where we know which programs work and which programs do not. And we’re stopping those that do not work and expanding those that do.”
So far the state has spent more than double the amount per inmate at Kewanee, compared with other prisons. But Baldwin says that cost will go down as they admit more people into the facility.
All of this is meant to lower the recidivism rate. Nearly half of all Illinois inmates return within three years of release - a statistic Baldwin says is quote - “appalling.”
The Department is also working with university researchers to see if this program works. If it does, it may be expanded to prisons across the state – and the nation.
Meanwhile, many inmates across Illinois are hoping to get in. About 220 of the 600 spots are filled, but more than 15-hundred have pending applications.