Sobering statistics:

  • Between 1995 and 2005, corrections spending from Illinois’ general fund rose by 70 percent, from $705 million to $1.2 billion.
  • During that time, the state’s prison population increased by 18 percent 44,919. The population is projected to grow to 49,497 by 2011.
  • At 133 percent of its highest listed capacity, Illinois’ prison system is one of the most overcrowded in the nation.
  • More than half (51.8 percent) of all inmates released in Illinois are back behind bars within three years.
  • The incarceration rate among African Americans is nine times higher than the rate for whites, a fact that has created significant public attention and concern about Illinois’ criminal justice system.

Drivers of Incarceration & Spending

  • As the largest source of prison admissions, Class 4 (the lowest-level felony) drug possession convictions have been a principal factor behind the population and cost increases. Three-and-a-half times more Class 4 possession offenders are admitted to prison than are admitted for the next most common offense.
  • The annual cost of incarcerating Illinois’ drug offenders reached an estimated $240 million in 2005.
  • Prison admissions for drug offenses from outside Chicago/Cook County have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Opportunities & Action

  • Illinois has embraced new approaches to public safety through more effective criminal justice interventions. For instance, in 2004, the state reopened the Sheridan Correctional Center as the largest fully dedicated state drug treatment prison in the nation. Initial data suggest markedly better recidivism and employment outcomes for Sheridan prisoners than for those returning home from non-treatment-focused prisons.
  • In 2005, Illinois began implementing a four-year parole reform plan aimed at reducing recidivism. The plan calls for doubling the number of parole officers to reduce caseload size, increase supervisions and monitoring, and better allow officers to target high-risk parolees with services and surveillance. Currently, 27 percent of those admitted to prison are parolees who violated the conditions of their release.
  • The CLEAR Initiative, a privately funded effort involving state policymakers, community leaders and criminal-justice stakeholders, has completed a rewrite of the Illinois Criminal Code, and has begun studying the Code of Corrections to develop a more consistent, practical and just system of punishments. State criminal justices agencies are supplying data to the Initiative to help ensure a rigorous analysis of the impacts of current sentencing laws.

For more information, please contact the Pew Center on the States –

Prison Programs and Services for Incarcerated Parents and Their Underage Children: Results From a National Survey of Correctional Facilities.

In 2007, approximately 810,000 men and women in state and federal prisons were parents of more than 1.7 million children under the age of 18, one third of whom will turn 18 while their parent(s) is incarcerated. Parental incarceration increases the risk that children will experience later behavioral and emotional problems, have troubles in school, and become involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Parenting-related prison programming offers some promise in lessening the negative consequences of parental incarceration, for both children and the incarcerated parent.