'A passion project for us': Kane County jail's Recovery Pod makes Amazon Prime time in documentary
Fernando Marin, in a cocaine-fueled mania, once fired a gun over the head of Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain as Hain was trying to arrest him.
It wasn't an ideal start to their relationship, but Marin now credits Hain for helping him fight his addiction -- so much so that he wishes he could bring his 13-year-old brother to the sheriff for help.
As Marin tears up and apologizes again for firing the gun, Hain stops him, telling him he has said "I'm sorry" enough.
That sequence, and Marin's story, is featured in the new documentary series "A Prisoner's Path," which premiered last week on Amazon Prime.
Over eight episodes, the series tells the stories of the men and women who have spent time in the Kane County jail's innovative Recovery Pod. A separate unit of the county jail, the Recovery Pod offers inmates substance abuse treatment, vocational training, mentoring programs and more.
Hain told us this week he was approached by the documentary series' producers after they heard his podcast, "A Sheriff and His Inmates." The podcast features Hain and Nathan Lanthrum, clinical director of the St. Charles-based Lighthouse Recovery treatment center, speaking with jail detainees about their experiences and their efforts to get their lives back on track while behind bars.
"This is a passion project for us," said Lyle Howry, who produced the film with Jason Rainwater for Skinfly Entertainment. "I lived this life, coming from foster homes and the streets at an early age, and I completely relate to the nonviolent incarcerated prisoners. Jason and myself's goal is to help, train and educate as many incarcerated people as we can and get them back to a good life with their families, kids and friends, for a successful chance at life again." (Howry did a short stint in federal prison years ago, on a financial crime.)
Most of the filming took place over three weeks in March 2021, during which the filmmakers captured group sessions, interviews Hain and Lanthrum conducted with individual participants, and one-on-one interviews with some of the participants. They also did follow-up interviews several months later with some detainees after they were released from jail.
Hain said he was willing to open up his jail to the filmmakers -- and through them, a national audience -- in hopes the documentary would shine a light on what he believes is a better way of incarceration.
"Corrections today is fraught with problems," he said. "It's not really correction. It's warehousing. Any time I can get an opportunity to show there's another way, a better way to do jailing, I'm willing to do it."
The sheriff said he also hopes the series shows viewers another side of the people who wind up in his jail.
"The stigma that goes along with jail is obviously negative. But when you get to learn about the traumas people went through when they were young that led them into drug addiction, or led them into the cycle of crime, you get to understand who they really are as people."
Hain said he and members of his staff regularly speak with their peers across Illinois and the country about the Recovery Pod and its challenges and successes. "A Prisoner's Path" could bring even more requests.
"I'm amazed at the results (of Recovery Pod)," he said. "I really think we've created a model other jails can follow."
And lest people think Hain is being soft on crime, in one episode he says the "whole point" of the recovery program is public safety.
In interview after interview, the men and women describe how they robbed and stole to get money for drugs.
One of the highlights of the series is the story of Rick Swain of Aurora. After a history of drug-related crimes, Swain, 53, managed to get clean for some time, but in 2019 he was charged with dealing heroin. Bail was set at $750,000, meaning Swain would have had to post $75,000 to be released pretrial.
He spent 808 days in the jail, but after participating in the recovery program, Hain and Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser asked a judge to release him on electronic monitoring. The documentary shows the joy of his podmates when Swain is released.
"I've been through this system a lot, like since the early '90s," Swain says, as he packs up his belongings for his release. "It's like being resurrected up out of the grave."
It also illustrates the efforts the jail program makes to stay connected to participants when they are out -- such as arranging a job for Swain, a pizza party at Hain's house for a released detainee, and free ongoing counseling through Lighthouse.
Ultimately, Swain pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received two years of probation -- far less than the 30 years he faced on his initial charge.
Illinois State Police have a pair of new resources at their disposal to help combat crime on Chicago-area expressways.
The agency in August opened two new technology centers -- one in Des Plaines, the other in Lockport -- where investigators will be able to analyze evidence in real time, allowing police to more quickly apprehend the bad guys, officials say.
At the heart of the centers are enhanced workstations where investigators can rapidly process and analyze digital evidence -- data from license plate readers, raw video footage from surveillance cameras, cellphone extractions, and more.
"The new ISP Technology Centers are equipped with the latest technology allowing ISP to increase the clearance rate for violent crimes and aid in narcotics, public integrity, internet crimes against children, and human trafficking investigations," ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said in a written statement.
The technology centers are the latest in a series of state police initiatives launched in the wake of a surge in expressway shootings in and around Chicago.
According to state police data, after recording 147 expressway shootings in 2020, the agency responded to a record 310 shootings in 2021, most in Chicago or the suburbs. That figure fell 40% to 189 in 2022, and so far this year there have been 86.
Beware the kombucha
A Maple Park man charged with driving under the influence of drugs in a crash that killed a man learned recently that kombucha is a no-no for him while he awaits trial.
That's because the small amount of alcohol the fermented-tea beverage has is enough to set off an alert on a SCRAM alcohol-monitoring anklet. When prosecutors learned of the alleged violation, they asked Judge Elizabeth Flood to increase his monetary bail and to order Jadzak to undergo an alcohol-use evaluation
Isaiah Jadzak told Kane County's Flood that he and his girlfriend had been sharing a half-gallon bottle of Synergy-brand kombucha one night. He said he also thought maybe the monitor went off because his girlfriend had been drinking alcohol and he kissed her.
Flood ordered the alcohol-use evaluation and that Jadzak not have alcohol at all in his house -- even if it is for somebody else.
Jadzak faces charges of reckless homicide, aggravated DUI under the influence of intoxicating compounds-accident causing death, and one count of possession of a controlled substance. Authorities say he was under the influence of amphetamines and cocaine when he crossed the centerline on Keslinger Road near Elburn. The crash killed Marcus Jones of Montgomery.
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