ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- As many as three quarters of inmates in the criminal justice system have some sort of behavioral health issue which can play a factor in their crimes. A new center that's trying to get inmates the help they need and reduce recidivism.
Illinois' Criminal Justice System is trying to open more doors instead of locking up people with mental illnesses and substance abuse.
Executive Director of Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) Jack Cutrone said, "Because of behavioral health issues, they get arrested, they are processed through our court system they are sentenced and at some point they're released and within a very short time they're back at the doors of the criminal justice system. “
A 2009 study found nearly 15 percent of male inmates and 31 percent of female inmates in local jails had a serious mental illness."
That's compared to just five percent of people in the general population and the goal is to change those statistics. The Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice just opened its center at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford. The program will provide statewide training to help communities deal with those who have behavioral health disorders in the justice system.
Second District Appellate Justice Kathryn Zenoff said, "It will improve outcomes for the persons with mental illnesses, it will improve public safety by lowering recidivism and it will save the counties money because they won't be jailed."
Jails also aren't equipped to provide mental health treatment so the center hopes to pull together resources and get those individuals the help they need.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas said, "On behalf of the entire Illinois Supreme Court I commend everyone affiliated with the center for your efforts."
Winnebago County was awarded a 260-thousand dollar grant last year to create the center, but the concept actually started back in 2008.
Q: How will the new center affect inmates in Winnebago County?
A: It may not be a drastic change since Winnebago county already has a specialty court for mental health. It looks like the center was placed in Rockford to model after the county's system and expand it to other communities that don't adequately reach out to inmates with mental health issues.
The fate of one of Rockford's Mental Health Centers is still up in the air. Chris asked us on Facebook when the Singer Center might be forced to shut its doors.
Here's what we found out: a final date hasn't been set. Senator Dave Syverson tells us that Governor Quinn's office must first decide what will happen to the patients there. The plan is to shut it down by this fall, but it could be closer to the end of the year before any action is taken.
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