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Ill. sheriff wants to bring state prisoners back to county jail to prepare them for life on the outside

A proposed program would see inmates from the area transferred about six months before their parole date


Nate Lanthrum, clinical director of Lighthouse Recovery, leads a group session for recovering addicts living in the recovery pod at the Kane County Jail on April 20, 2021. Looking on is Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain, right.

Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS

By Megan Jones
The Beacon-News

ST. CHARLES, Ill. — Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain hopes to implement a new program that would bring inmates from state prison back to the county jail about six months before their parole date to help keep them from turning back to crime.

Since he took office three years ago, Hain has brought an addiction-recovery program through Lighthouse Recovery, OSHA-certified classes and vocational training courses into the jail. He believes the programs help prepare people for life after prison better than what the Illinois Department of Corrections offers.

In line with Hain’s statements, the recently released 2021 annual report from the sheriff’s office shows the average rate at which released prisoners return to crime has decreased from 49% to 18% in the last six years in the county.

“We know the Department of Corrections isn’t doing much, if any, programming to help connect them to their communities when they are released from jail,” Hain said of prisoners.

Hain said he knows his office has the resources to help those who will soon be released from prison, particularly since the average daily population of the county jail has decreased from 515 inmates to 325 since 2018.

Hain is still waiting on approval from the Illinois Department of Corrections concerning his proposed program, but he hopes to implement the plan by the fall. He’d start with a small pilot program of five to 10 inmates who must be Kane County residents. After the program, they would be released with housing, a job, increased skills and continued addiction treatment, should they need it, he said.

Since Lighthouse Recovery in St. Charles was contracted to launch the intensive addiction treatment program in the jail in 2019, opioid overdose deaths among former county inmates is down by 89%, he said.

Finances for the proposed program are still under negotiation, but Hain said that all of the jail’s additional programs over the past few years haven’t cost any tax dollars, and he believes he would be able to fund the new program without turning to the taxpayers for additional money.

When Hain took office, he said he learned that 46% of the jail’s population was Black, while the Black population of the county was only 6%. By starting new exit programs, the current Black population now makes up 36% of those in the jail, a statistic Hain said he hopes to keep driving down.

Hain will discuss the current programs at the Kane County Jail as well as his proposed new project from 6 to 7 p.m. March 9 at an event titled “A Working Solution for Modern Justice” at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. He will be joined by a former jail resident, a current inmate and the clinical director of Lighthouse Recovery, who currently runs the jail’s addiction recovery program.

(c)2022 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.)