MURPHYSBORO — Work is continuing on a former youth detention facility, preparing it to reopen as a repurposed facility for prisoners about to re-enter the community.
A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said there is no firm timeline on when the former Illinois Youth Center will reopen as the Life Skills and Re-entry Center.
"The Department has not solidified an opening date," spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said in an email.
"The department is committed to reducing the prison population and equipping offenders with tools that will help them be successful once they are released from IDOC custody," Wilson continued. "We are working diligently to create staffing plans and develop criteria and curriculum for the offenders who will be eligible to participate in the Life Skills Re-entry Center, located at the former IYC Murphysboro."
The governor created the facility to provide training, education and support to those who are nearing the end of their sentences, as part of his focus on prison reform in the state.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said about a month ago he was told by the governor that the facility could open anytime from March to July.
“I’m happy that it’s on the way," Stephens said. "I know that a watched pot never boils.”
It was a little more than three months ago that Gov. Bruce Rauner traveled to Murphysboro to announce that that facility, closed in 2011 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn, would be reopened and repurposed as a facility for those transitioning back into the community. It was built in 1997.
A minimum security facility, the center will prepare offenders for re-entry with educational, vocational and life-skills training, Rauner said at an October 2016 news conference at the site.
Rauner's press secretary said in October it will cost approximately $800K to repurpose the old IYC.
Monday morning, only a white pickup truck was visible outside the facility, where the entrance is gated. A few weeks earlier, a large white truck was seen at the facility.
This facility is expected to house about 300 prisoners preparing for re-entry into the community and employ about 120 people, Rauner said in October. The center will be managed under the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, which is managed by Warden Jacqueline Lashbrook, who was also at the October 2016 news conference.
When the facility is up and opened, Murphysboro will not be receiving any property taxes, as it is a state-run facility that is exempt from paying property taxes, Stephens said.
"Anytime people are working in Murphysboro, they will do all those things that we know people will," such as buying gas at a local gas station or eating at a restaurant or even buying a screwdriver at the local hardware store or having a tire fixed at the local tire shop.
"All those things make for a stronger community and a stronger tax base,” he said.
Anyone who is interested in working for the IDOC, who is not already employed with the Department, can apply to be a Correctional Officer Trainee on the Illinois Department of Correction's website at https://www.illinois.gov/idoc/Pages/default.aspx.