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Many questions left by Quinn's proposed halfway house closures

llinois Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the Budget Address to a join session of the General Assembly in the House chambers Wednesday, Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's budget-trimming proposal to close halfway houses around the state has left a lot of unanswered questions.

The halfway houses funded by the Department of Corrections are known as adult transition centers. There are seven in the state, and all but one would be shut down under the budget proposed by Quinn last Wednesday. The low-level offenders who spend their nights there would instead be sent home and placed on electronic detention.

"They will be allowed movement outside of their residence for work, for medical appointments, for educational classes," said Stacey Solano, a Department of Corrections spokesperson. "However, all of that movement must be authorized."

After the additional costs of electronic detention are subtracted, the Quinn administration projects a $17.7 million savings in the next fiscal year by closing the adult transition centers. There are currently more than 1,100 offenders housed at the centers, according to the administration.

The prisoners would be checked on by parole officers, even as Quinn's budget calls for severe cuts to the number of parole officers in the state. Solano noted they would likely be hired back to other jobs as the parole department is reorganized, though she said details of that plan aren't yet available.

Solano said many community programs offered to offenders would be unaffected by the closures, but she acknowledged some halfway house services, including perhaps job placement, will be lost.

Prison watchdog the John Howard Association - as well as AFSCME, the union representing many halfway house, prison and parole employees - worry the closures will lead to more of the offenders getting back in trouble and landing back in prison. That result would exacerbate Illinois' already overcrowded prison system, both groups said.

The only adult transition center spared by Quinn's cuts is one in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood that's run by the non-profit SAFER Foundation using Department of Corrections funding. Solano said one facility is being kept open because the state is required by law to provide these kinds of services.

Another halfway house run by SAFER in the Lawndale neighborhood, Crossroads Adult Transition Center, is on the closure list, as are state-run facilities in Chicago's West Town neighborhood, Peoria, Decatur, Carbondale and Aurora.

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