MURPHYSBORO — For about the past four years, State Rep. Terri Bryant has been fighting to reopen the former Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro as a re-entry center for Illinois Department of Corrections inmates at the end of their sentences.
As announced Thursday by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the facility will open soon, and Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the facility is training staff and will eventually open as a transitional facility for minimum security inmates to train for jobs after incarceration.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, along with Rep. Terri Bryant, said the Murphysboro IYC would be open again in a matter of months. They said the facility is currently training staff.
Bryant said on Monday the target date for inmates at the facility is between March 1 and April 1 because it depends on staff being hired and trained appropriately for the facility.
According to a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Corrections, there will be 63 officers and 240 offenders at the facility when it opens. The spokesperson said those numbers could increase as the program grows.
In addition to officers, Bryant said other positions such as counselors and support staff have been offered positions and will report to work in Murphysboro on Feb. 16.
The intent of the program, Bryant said, is to get offenders back on the street with vocational training and education. The Murphysboro facility will also offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
“Instead of giving a guy $10 in gate money and pushing them out of the front door and saying see you next time, you are actually preparing them to go back out into the community,” she said. “If you put an inmate back on the street and they don’t reoffend, that is a win-win. It’s a win for the inmate and a win for the state.”
It's not only exciting for Bryant to see the facility reopen for personal reasons, she said, but also because Murphysboro and Southern Illinois were hurt when 101 people lost their jobs when the youth center closed in 2012. She said she has invested a lot of time, energy and “legislative equity” in making this move happen.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said from the city’s perspective, it is very pleased to see the facility reopen.
“I believe politics played a part of its closing to begin with and I think the reopening is going to hopefully energize a portion of the Murphysboro economy and lead to a brighter future from Murphysboro,” he said.
Even bigger than the town’s economy, Stephens said the re-entry facility is good public policy.
“That facility is going to be a transition center that is going to give people life skills so that people who been incarcerated will have a real second chance,” he said. “That is morally the right thing to do.”
A Rauner spokesperson said in 2017 the reopening and repurposing of the facility took about $800,000. Bryant said that money was in the 2018 budget and not opening on time means the state will only have to use about three months of those funds in this fiscal year. The new state fiscal year begins on July 1.