Correctional Industries Save Taxpayer Money and Reduce Recidivism

According to the National Institute of Justice, recidivism is defined as a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. Recidivism rates vary in Illinois, but according to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the rates are generally between 38 and 44 percent.  

One of the ways the State of Illinois works to reduce recidivism is through the Illinois Correctional Industries program. This initiative provides vocational training to incarcerated individuals and helps them obtain valuable job skills and experience. This program does not involve any extra costs to taxpayers. 

Inmates learn skills they can use while incarcerated and after their release into society. The ICI program is designed for individuals to become productive members of society and not relapse back to committing crimes and returning to jail. 

Participants in the ICI program manufacture many products, including furniture, chairs, firehouse equipment, brooms, brushes, cleaning products, clothing, bedding, road signs, vehicle decals, hand-crafted state seals, and more. 

The revenue generated from product sales funds the entire ICI program. There are 16 Illinois Department of Corrections facilities that currently have ICI programs operating and providing services. Qualifications for ICI workers include having time left on their sentence and demonstrating good behavior. 

An ICI program that began in 2001 involves training hundreds of service dogs for two non-profit organizations in Illinois. Helping Paws is a program at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln. Participating women in custody at LCC undergo an apprenticeship program and complete thousands of classroom and hands-on training hours. Program participants help train the dogs while rehabilitating themselves and readying for a return to society. The trained dogs have made a tremendous impact with two organizations – Paws Giving Independence in Peoria and the Mid-America Service Dog Foundation in Chicago. 

The Illinois River Correctional Facility in Canton includes a 13,000-square-foot bakery. Bread, buns, snack cakes, pies, donuts, cinnamon rolls, brownies, biscuits, cookies, and other assorted goodies are made at the facility. Hundreds of inmates are employed at the bakery, which feeds the general prison population, Department of Corrections officers, civilian staff members, and staff at other state-run facilities. The bakery turns an annual profit and helps to maximize state resources while not increasing any taxpayer costs. 

At the Dixon Correctional Center, more than 360,000 eyeglasses were produced and sold, generating gross revenues of over $10 million back in 2010. The Illinois Department of Health and Human Services purchased most of those eyeglasses and provided them to low-income families. ICI workers also recycled nearly four million pounds of refuse in FY ’17, keeping the waste from going to landfills. 

ICI works with construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Inc. as part of its vocational programming. ICI has access to 20 CAT-certified simulators, and inmates train on the machines and obtain a certificate they can show prospective employers that they have completed certified, simulator training on how to operate various large Caterpillar equipment. 

ICI’s work to help reduce recidivism is vital, as the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with upwards of two million people in jail at a time. The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 664 people per 100,000 among founding NATO countries. The next-highest country is the United Kingdom at 129 people per 100,000.  Illinois has an incarceration rate of 497 per 100,000 people. 

Photo Credit: Medill (Google Maps)