As you may know, in my previous career, I was an administrator for 20 years serving at several different Southern Illinois correctional facilities. I am passionate about issues facing the Illinois Department of Corrections and I believe I bring a unique set of skills and experiences when it comes to the creation of policies that affect the Department.
Illinois currently operates five Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. The title of “Illinois Youth Center” might be more familiar to Southern Illinoisans, as Harrisburg is currently home to one of the facilities that is still in operation. I have used this space many times throughout my tenure as your State Representative to address the error that Pat Quinn made when he shuttered the IYC in my hometown of Murphysboro, causing job losses and overcrowding at other juvenile justice facilities.
Tuesday’s hearing focused on a recent spike in violence at Illinois Youth Center facilities. Over the last couple of years, multiple news reports have detailed inmate on staff and inmate on inmate assaults at IYC’s across Illinois. Illinois’ Department of Juvenile Justice has (foolishly, in my opinion) implemented a number of reforms over the past several years that I believe have led to this rise in violence, including eliminating the use of solitary confinement as punishment, except for in very limited circumstances. My conversations with correctional officers that work at these facilities have led me to believe that those reforms have left IYC staff members without the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
In fact, in 2016, the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg reported more inmate on staff assaults than all of the other Illinois Youth Centers combined.
Clearly we have a problem in both adult and juvenile facilities regarding staff assaults. Nationally, there is a movement toward more programming and mental health treatment to improve outcomes for inmates. However, this goal cannot be accomplished with current staffing levels. Part of my work to enact a budget for the State was to improve staffing levels at correctional facilities so that the tide of these problems can start to be stemmed.
The positive takeaway from the hearing was that communication between management, staff, and outside interest groups is improving. The first step is that everyone hear and understand each others’ needs, wants, and goals. The Chair of the committee has pledged to hold additional hearings in the coming year to continue this progress. Here is the bottom line: The current level of violence taking place against the men and women serving in the Department of Corrections at both Youth and adult facilities is unacceptable and can not be tolerated any more. I will continue to monitor this situation and keep you informed in the coming weeks and months.
Illinois Kicks Off Bicentennial Year with Flag Raising Ceremonies
On Monday, I was honored to join officials from the city of Carbondale as they raised an Illinois Bicentennial Flag over city hall.
The Illinois Bicentennial Commission encouraged flag raising ceremonies be held in cities and at County courthouses across the State.
Here are some photos from the event in Carbondale!
Here’s a photo of the Carbondale event. If you want to learn more about Illinois’ Bicentennial Celebration, please visit Illinois200.com
Carbondale Firefighters Collecting Toys for Tots
The spirit of charity and giving is alive and well in Southern Illinois once again this year. I was so heartened to see a news report on KFVS Channel 12 this past week detailing efforts by the Carbondale Fire Department and the US Marine Corps to collect toys for children in need this Christmas. I was so moved by the story that I couldn’t help but share. Please click the link below to watch the video.
Carbondale firefighters and Marines collect Toys for Tots
If you wish to donate new, unwrapped toys this Christmas you may drop off donations at the Carbondale Fire Department located at 401 N. Glenview in Carbondale, the Benton Fire Department, or at Black Diamond Harley Davidson in Marion. Last year, Toys for Tots collected more than 10,000 toys for 3,000 children in Southern Illinois!
My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com – Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!