Updated at: 9:57 a.m. on 6/8/2011
For Denning, recovery programs like the WTC are an investment in public safety. She says, “what you have to do is invest in the human being. If you don’t invest in the human being they could come out of prison being angry, being bitter, because they haven’t learned anything from their incarceration.”
Despite the program's success, the Women’s Treatment Center is the only one like it in Illinois. Denning says funding the program is part of the problem. State budget cuts have leveled many drug treatment programs and without strong treatment partners like the Women's Treatment Center, it is difficult to expand alternatives to incarceration programs.
Renee Lee, the director at Women’s Treatment Center, says that pulling funding for treatment, while continuing to put drug offenders in prison, won’t save money in the long run. Programs like the one at the Women's Treatment Center have a similar per-resident cost to incarceration and because of the reduced recidivism rate will save money overall.
According to Lee, part of the problem is that politicians are worried about appearing soft on crime. As more decisions about criminal justice are made in the legislature and not in the courtroom, approaches have become harsher.
Lee says, “From the conversations with participants, perception that it’s easy on crime far from truth. Often these women have not only done crimes, they’ve become dependent on society whether through Family Support, TANIF, or social Security. And here we are saying it’s time for you to empower yourself educationally and vocationally through work.”
Last names withheld by request for privacy.