Kane sheriff: Proactive job training, drug treatment is future of county jail
When the Kane County jail opened more than a decade ago, some floors were left unfinished to add more prisoner cells.
Now, county officials, led by Sheriff Ron Hain, are looking to use more than 30,000 square feet of unused and under-utilized space for vocational programs for inmates, and drug addiction treatment for inmates and walk-in clients.
Hain said "institutional inertia" of the last decade stopped county leaders from taking a proactive approach to reduce recidivism, and changes in technology, such as eliminating areas for inmates to visit people via video screen, have opened up more space at the jail.
"This has allowed us to think out of the box and where we're going to take corrections in the future," Hain said Wednesday during a tour of areas of the jail that could be converted into inpatient and outpatient areas used by private rehabilitation firms. "Imagine if you could walk into a police agency and walk right into rehab. That is what that's going to be."
Hain said a feasibility study will be completed in a few weeks, and he hopes the county will receive some proposals from private rehabilitation firms by midsummer.
The companies would pay for the build out and sign a long-term lease with the county, Hain said. Private insurance and Medicaid would help inmates and general public to pay for drug rehab.
Those incarcerated would be separate from "walk-in" clients for the inpatient program. Opening by the end of 2020 would be optimal, Hain said.
"We have the first-line, first responder access to the people who need it most," he said, and repeatedly stressed "punitive incarceration" is not a solution.
By April, Hain said, the jail will offer medically assisted treatment for inmates going through withdrawal, and 18 officers have received mental health training. Also, Lighthouse Recovery of St. Charles has begun a 30-person test program to provide addiction treatment at the jail.
Hain also touted new vocational programs, such as forklift certification, gardening, commercial painting, and resume writing and interviewing, as opportunities for inmates to increase their skills.
"The exit program is so important. Now, before people are leaving the facility, they're getting plugged into employers," he said, noting the jail offered only GED and parenting classes before his election as sheriff in late 2018.
Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress applauded the new approach at the jail.
"We're going to see measurable change pretty quick because this works," she said.
Kane County Judge Marmarie Kostelny, who oversees the county's drug court, said she is excited about the possibilities discussed by Hain. Kostelny said people in drug court work hard toward their sobriety, but having a goal of landing a full-time job can add to their motivation.
"I'm very encouraged that he's recognizing this is a problem and taking innovative steps to deal with it," she said. "Giving them a change, giving them an opportunity -- that's big in recovery."
During his election campaign, Hain met Victor Woods, an Arlington Heights native and motivational speaker. Woods, a nine-time felon who served time in state and federal prison and is now an author and speaker who will have his life story told in a Netflix series, flew in from Florida to speak to some inmates Wednesday.
"It's not where you start, it's where you finish," Woods said, encouraging them to use resources available to them and their skills -- productively. "There's talent in this room ... Prison was my workshop, my cell was my university. I sat in my cell and planned all this. If you don't have a plan, you're gonna fail."