Welcome to Hospitality House, Chester, IL - Did You Know?

Yes, there is a Hospitality House in Chester, IL with a vision to provide lodging for families and friends when visiting the incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center, Chester Mental Health Facility, and Pinckneyville Correctional Center.

The stress and heartache of having a loved one incarcerated is beyond explanation in itself, but when that loved one is transferred hundreds of miles away that only compounds the heavy toll on the family, not only physically but financially. Many cannot afford the cost involved of staying in a hotel, and traveling hundreds of miles can be challenging on even the best of us without a period of rest. The Hospitality House helps ease some of the burden of visiting family members in prison by providing low cost overnight lodging as well as giving the family a chance of visiting their loved one for more that one day if they choose.

Other lives are affected by incarceration. Not only those who are sentenced to prison but fathers, mothers, children, and wives who are left behind are also affected. These left behind loved ones that are trying to give their incarcerated family members support will become an important part of them transitioning back into the 'real world' upon completion of their sentences. Families left behind become the collateral damage of prison sentences but can be an important part of rehabilitation with continued contact and support. While the majority of prisons are hundreds of miles from the city where most of those who are imprisoned are from, families cannot always afford the travel expense that comes from staying at a hotel; this is beyond the means of some. The incarcerated prisoner suffers, and the family suffers.

Illinois Legislation seeks to limit use of solitary confinement (March, 2016)

 Brian Nelson's years of solitary confinement in the now-shuttered maximum security prison Tamms Correctional  Center (Tamms, Illinois) left him terrified of other people, hallucinations, increased anxiety, weight loss, heart  palpitations, sleep problems, and severe and chronic depression. Nelson was confined at Tamms in solitary  confinement for the final 12 years of a 26-year sentence for murder and armed robbery.

 Legislation sponsored by Democratic Representative La Shawn Ford, of Chicago, would limit solitary confinement to  no more than five consecutive days and five total days during a 150-day period. That would be a dramatic change  from current rules that allow prisons to isolate inmates in solitary for weeks or years at a time. The legislation  would also require prisons to allow inmates in solitary to spend four hours per day outside of their cells.

Gov. Rauner is right on Illinois prisons: They are broken!

 Gov. Bruce Rauner has explained that "we haven't properly staffed and invested in our correction systems, and we  imprison too many non-violent offenders while failing to provide them with ways to get back into society and become  productive citizens."

 The fact that the Illinois prison system is broken was the basis for Our Brothers' Keepers of Southern Illinois forming  as a faith-based organization that is dedicated to the full integration of formerly incarcerated persons into the  community. The mission is to assist those returning citizens in attaining productive citizenship by providing reentry  services, including supportive housing, life and career skills, and counseling services.

What is the current situation with our Illinois prisons?
The Illinois state prisons incarcerate 49,000 adults in a system designed for 32,000 at an annual cost of $1.4 billion. This makes incarceration the state's most expensive form of punishment. Illinois' prisons lack the resources to provide prisoners with meaningful programming, making it more likely that offenders will commit new crimes when they are released. In the 1960-1970's there were about 60 inmates incarcerated per 100,000 citizens with its prisons housing fewer than 10,000 people at a cost of less than $52 million. In the late 70's the politicians and opinion leaders shifted to the belief that "nothing worked" to rehabilitate offenders and the most effective response to crime was to increase the use of prisons to incapacitate current offenders and to deter future ones.
The result was that over the last four decades (1970-2012) the Illinois prison population has grown from fewer than 10,000 to the current high of about 49,000 inmates which represents about 380 inmates incarcerated per 100,000 citizens and at a cost of $1.4 billion.

Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform - Final Report: Part 1

 In February 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner created the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing  Reform to make recommendations for amendments to state law that will reduce the state's current prison  population by 25% by 2025.

 The Commission completed Part 1 of their report in December, 2015 with a series of recommendation that  would make significant, long-term changes to the criminal justice system, and that would, in turn, safely and  significantly reduce the state's prison population over the next decade.

 Some of the recommendations have now advanced to the level of Illinois State Senate and House Bills:

SB #3368: Requires IDOC and the Secretary of State to ensure that inmates have a State identification card upon release at no cost to the inmate, when their release plan contemplates Illinois residence. This ID card is needed to apply for a job, secure housing, and to receive treatment and medical care. Successful reentry is not possible without an individual having state identification.

SB #3294: Requires the Illinois Department of Corrections to increase use of electronic monitoring technology in lieu of imprisonment for both short-term inmates, pre-trial detention and inmates who are ready to be transitioned out of secure custody. The use of electronic detention would be based on risk assessment, need, and responsivity principles.

SB #3164: Gives judges the discretion to determine whether probation may be appropriate for the following offenses that include (a) residential burglary, (b) Class 2 felonies (second or subsequent), and (c) drug law violations.

HB #5973: Provides that for certain occupational licenses (barbering, cosmetology, roofing, accounting, real estate and funeral services), if the offense that a person was convicted for is not directly related to the professional field they seek to get a license for, then his/her conviction is not to be used as the sole basis for denying the license. This will help people achieve employment and to develop a career path when they reenter their community.

GOD and CAESAR - Their Entangled Jurisdiction in Criminal Justice

The presentation by Fr. Christian Reuter, OFM, was made as part of the capstone course Senior Seminar on Criminal Justice at Lindenwood University, Belleville, IL on March 24, 2016.
The focus was on three areas that would be encountered by those entering the criminal justice systems.

Quick Tour of Penal History and a snapshot of U.S. Corrections.

Moral/Ethical questions posed by the Criminal Justice System.

Personal challenges facing those entering Criminal Justice careers.