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updated: 7/29/2014 5:34 PM

Prison watchdog praises Aurora halfway house

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Two years after Gov. Pat Quinn targeted for closure an Aurora center that helps female prisoners prepare to rejoin society, a top prison watchdog Tuesday gave it high marks.

A new John Howard Association report says women who went through the Fox Valley Adult Transition Center were half as likely to return to prison as other former inmates. Programs there help women prepare for work and life after their prison terms.

Executive Director John Maki said that while prisons are known for keeping people in, "prisons are also a place that people leave from in massive, massive numbers."

Maki said the center has a "real good record of success." It's the only one of its kind for women in Illinois, and he said the Aurora center has a good relationship with the community.

Quinn introduced a budget proposal in 2012 that called for closing the Aurora center as part of cost-cutting efforts, but the center survived.

Maki said the state could make more efficient use of the 130 spots at the Fox Valley center if it evaluated differently who needs the services.

Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said professionals in the prison system have a detailed system to make those calls and the number of spots available is constrained by the state's finances.

"We agree the adult transition centers are a very important part of what we do and achieve good results," he said. "Budget factors are always of note in (the department) and we continue to work with the governor's office."

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