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Murphysboro | Life Skills Re-Entry Facility
IDOC graduation ceremony marks new beginning for Murphysboro re-entry facility

MURPHYSBORO — Pride and optimism were in abundance Friday as 63 cadets graduated from training and started their careers as correctional officers in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

This pride and optimism was not just beaming from the students and their families — though there was a lot of that — but also from the line of political figures at the head of the room who helped reopen the Murphysboro Life Skills Re-entry Center, which was the host of the ceremony.

“This facility is a special place. This is unique in America,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in his opening remarks.

He implored the men and women in front of him to remember their reason for working.

”Please stay dedicated to a second chance,” Rauner said. “Everyone makes a mistake in life, some mistakes are more serious than others, but when folks have served their time, giving them a second chance to redeem themselves to become productive citizens, that’s what the good Lord expects of all of us,”

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the day was particularly special for her as she lives in Murphysboro. She and Rauner both said how hard they worked to re-open the facility.

“It was a little bit of a chore,” Bryant said of the initial push to get the project moving. She also addressed the graduates and their families.

Isaac Smith / ISAAC SMITH The Southern 

Pam Jones, left, talks with her granddaughter, Avree Rose, four, of Greenville, Friday as they wait for Rose’s father, Zach Westfall, to graduate as cadet with the Illinois Department of Corrections in Murphysboro.

She spoke also of the importance for the Life Skills Re-entry Center, whose mission it is to give low-level offenders skills needed to be successful citizens when they leave corrections. She said with the way the system often works — sending inmates to the bus stop with enough to make it home — all too often “we are going to see them again.”

Economics also factored into the significance of Friday. Of the graduates, 32 were on their way to working in Murphysboro, while the remainder would be working in Pinckneyville.

Mark Cravens, 24, of Herrin, said he was enthusiastic about the opportunity. He said he had some classes in criminal justice under his belt, but has since been working delivery jobs. However, he is now excited to start his career in corrections and is also excited to be able to work close to home.

A job in corrections is also good news for Brock Jackson and his wife, Ivy Jackson. The two have been married two years and have a child together.

Ivy, a stay-at-home mom, said the job at Murphysboro was a great opportunity for her family.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

In an interview after the ceremony, Rauner announced an April 16 opening date and doubled down on his enthusiasm for the facility’s mission.

Isaac Smith / ISAAC SMITH The Southern 

Lori Brown, left, sits Friday with her two sons Joseph Brown (left) and Aydin Brown as the family waits for Joseph Brown to graduate as a corrections officer during a ceremony in Murphysboro.

“We are going to be doing things like help offenders learn how to do interviews for jobs, how to fill in applications for jobs, learn how to open bank accounts,” Rauner said, adding that he hopes Murphysboro enjoys success like the similar Kewanee facility opened last year.

Rauner said of the 60 inmates that have come through there since it opened, none have returned.

“Everyone who leaves here will hopefully not repeat offend,” Rauner said.

Lindsey Hess, a public information officer for IDOC, said upon opening, the Murphysboro correctional center will house 20 inmates and eventually move that number to 114 while having a max staff of more than 60 officers.

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SIU | Green Tour
Small changes, big impacts: Green Tour highlights sustainability projects at SIU

CARBONDALE — At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable about the puddle at the edge of Thompson Woods near the Agriculture Building.

But the “rain garden,” one of many projects funded by Southern Illinois University’s $10 student Green Fee, actually has an important role to play, according to Karen Schauwecker, SIU sustainability program coordinator.

“Before this garden, when it rained a lot … this whole walkway would get flooded. There’s a few negative impacts on that — it makes it impassable, but also water collects pollutants on its way to the storm water drains, and when water facilities are overwhelmed in times of high rain, a lot of that water gets pushed back into the waterways when they back up,” Schauwecker said.

Comprised of several layers of gravel, the garden collects rainwater and feeds it back to the trees and native plants.

“It doesn’t look like much,” Schauwecker said. “But it actually was a pretty big construction project.”

The garden is one of 169 sustainability projects on campus made possible by the Green Fee, which was instituted by a campus-wide referendum in 2009.

Schauwecker and Geory Kurtzhals, SIU's sustainability coordinator, on Friday led a “Green Tour” to show off Green Fee-funded projects on campus. The tours are held on the first Friday of each month.

An environmental student organization, Eco-Dawgs, led the initiative to adopt the Green Fee in 2007.

“They had seen this at other universities, where students had paid in to this Green Fee, and then it provided a sum of money that could help fund green initiatives on campus,” Schauwecker said.

Kurtzhals said similar student fees are increasingly common at universities that are trying to push sustainability.

“When the students are engaged in these proposals, it enhances their university experience — it empowers them to make a difference on their corner of campus, and then how often is a student able to write a grant and have it funded while they’re learning at a university? In addition to a practical learning experience, it’s a great résumé builder,” Kurtzhals said.

Any student, faculty or staff member — or groups of collaborators — can submit a Green Fund proposal. Many Green Fund-financed projects are also funded partially by departments.

Each year, the Sustainability Council — comprised of three students, three faculty and three staff — reviews the proposals and selects the strongest ones for funding. This year’s 28 Green Fund ideas were submitted Thursday.

“One of my visions for campus is to create models for sustainable solutions, or students working with faculty and staff to solve problems, because we have the faculty here who have the expertise, the students have the drive, and they’re trying to learn, as well, and then the staff have kind of that practical application — they’re trying to make the university function. So when the three of them get together, you typically have really practical solutions to a problem, and a lot of times creative, too, because you have the creative juices of the students,” Kurtzhals said.

The Green Fund helped pay for four trash/recycling containers with solar-powered compacting mechanisms. Over the course of six months, the containers collect over 200 pounds of bottles and cans, and five times the usual amount of trash, Schauwecker said. Once the compartments are full, a “smart belly” function sends out email to Plant and Services Operations.

“What that does is it has a big cost savings in terms of labor,” she said.

Green Fund grants also replaced Student Center and McLeod Theater lighting with more efficient and longer-lasting light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

Seven bicycle fix-it stations are the result of a collaboration between the Department of Public Safety and Saluki Spokes. They’re equipped with tools to fix flat tires or damaged brakes.

A solar picnic table made of recycled plastics has an 110-volt charger and USB ports for charging mobile phones.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Karen Schauweker (right), sustainability program coordinator at SIU, shows students the solar picnic table near Lawson Hall during the First Friday Green Tour on Friday in Carbondale. The tour highlights a variety of projects funded on campus by the student Green Fee since it was instituted in 2009.

Students are currently developing prototypes for the Eco-Rec Green Fund project, which seeks to prevent growth of cyanobacteria in Campus Lake by aerating the water. One project consists of a solar-powered fountain; students are also creating at least one stationary bicycle that pumps water.

“I think that particular Green Fund project is a really cool model of students working with faculty and staff to find us a solution on campus that’s sustainable. … That’s an example of people getting together and solving an issue, because sustainability issues are really complex like that, and you can’t just do it in a silo with one group of people,” Kurtzhals said.

Some of the 30 refillable water stations on campus were also funded by the Green Fee. 

When sustainability staff added up the digital readouts on all those refillable water stations in the spring semester of 2017, they found they had saved an equivalent of over 1 million plastic water bottles that would have gone to a landfill, Kurtzhals said.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Karen Schauweker, sustainability program coordinator at SIU, shows students a water bottle refill station in the Agriculture Building during the First Friday Green Tour on Friday in Carbondale. The tour highlights a variety of projects funded on campus by the student Green Fee since it was instituted in 2009.

“This is the kind of sustainable project that I love, because it makes my life easier, and it’s easier to make the sustainable choice. It’s actually easier for me to bring my water bottle every day than it is to go and try to buy a new disposable bottle every day,” Schauwecker said.

Other tour highlights include the Agriculture Building’s vertical garden (located in the south wing) and “green roof,” a rooftop garden.

“In urban areas, there’s a huge rainwater runoff issue, and these green roofs collect all of that water and make it easier for the water treatment stations to keep up with those large amounts of heavy rainfall,” Schauwecker said.

A green roof can reduce heating and cooling costs by insulating the building. It also provides a habitat for bees and birds.

Jeffery Eliasen, one of the students attending the Green Tour Friday as extra credit for a geography class, said he hadn’t known about most of the projects.

“I’ve walked by probably most of them,” Eliasen said.

The next Green Tour dates are April 6 and May 4. Tours begin at noon at the Sustainability Hub in the SIU Student Center, and they are free and open to the public. More information is available at

SIU Women’s Soccer | A New Kind of Football
SIU women's soccer set to kick off in 2019 — and it could be a big hit in Saluki Country

CARBONDALE — Division I independent women's soccer programs have to play at least 11 matches a year, but Southern Illinois University's new program is jumping in with both feet next fall.

Saluki athletic director Tommy Bell expects to play between 11 and 15 matches in 2019, when the program begins as an independent, as well as some exhibition games. Some of those could be against Division II teams as the program develops, he said, under a yet-to-be-named coach.

SIU is scheduled to begin competing in the nine-team Missouri Valley Conference in the fall of 2020.

"It'll take three years for us to get up and moving," Bell said. "The first they'll play as an independent, and then we'll play a Valley season in 2020, and the great thing about that is, that will give us eight matches built into the schedule, because there will be nine schools in the league. From a non-conference standpoint, you've got SEMO, Murray (State), but early on, in the first several years, we will probably play more D2s in non-conference than we will in conference."

Sister school SIU Edwardsville, Saint Louis University, Eastern Illinois and Western Kentucky give the Salukis several options for nonconference opponents within a four-hour radius. They'll also give SIU more teams to have to recruit against, but the Salukis could have a lot to sing about once they get going.

Saluki Stadium, the 15,000-seat football stadium that opened in 2010, will give SIU the biggest women's soccer facility in the Valley. The team will practice at the new track facility, which features a full-length soccer field and locker room, and compete at the football stadium, Bell said.

Most of the players in the Valley come from the Midwest, 10th-year Drake coach Lindsey Horner said, and SIU's program could keep some of the best players in the region closer to home.

"I think there's more opportunity to grow the game. I think that's a positive, just, add another team to the Valley," said Horner, who joined Drake's program in its second season as an assistant coach in 2003. "It's a different challenge, like adding Valparaiso this year. But it just changed the dynamics of the year, and you have to be better over the course of more games. Almost selfishly, the St. Louis-area players on our team, they can play closer to home once or twice a year."

Four of 11 first-team all-conference women's soccer players in the Valley were Illinois natives in 2017. Two second-team picks, including Marion High School grad Emily Dickman, were also from the Prairie State. One first-teamer, Northern Iowa forward Brynell Yount, was from Colorado. Two were from Wisconsin, three were from Kansas, and one was from Iowa.

There were 404 high school programs in Illinois in 2015-16, according to the Illinois High School Association, the sixth-most of any girls sport. More than 388,000 high school girls competed on 11,823 teams last school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Girls soccer was the fourth-most popular sport, in terms of participation, and is very popular in Southern Illinois.

"I think it'll be extremely good, and not just for our program in Carbondale. We've had club teams that have lost some players," Carbondale High School girls soccer coach Ortez Davis said. "It could get more club teams going in the region. I think it'd be great to be able to see, at some point, some of our local athletes competing at the college level, locally."

Few women soccer players in the Valley come from other countries, Horner said, noting she had one player from Ontario, Canada. SIU will start behind most Valley teams in terms of the size of the roster, and the amount of money invested in the program. Bell said he expects to offer 8.4 scholarships for the program, far less than the NCAA max of 14.

Missouri State, which won the MVC Tournament last fall, had 28 players. Drake had 25, about the average in the Valley, according to Horner. SIU will have between 20-25 players in its first season, Bell said, between transfers, players from the SIU club team that want to play and recruits. Bell anticipates SIU will invest about $100,000 on new equipment, such as goals, safety netting and locker room equipment, and about $400,000 per year on the program.

The average Division I women's soccer program costs about $600,000 per year, according to data from the NCAA. SIU plans to hire a head coach and at least one assistant coach. The job closed in mid-February, and Bell hopes to have someone in place by the end of April.