Mt. Vernon Register-News

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July 23, 2013

Big Muddy report prompts recommendations

INA — A report on Big Muddy River Correctional Center shows mental health is inadequate, health care is backlogged.

The John Howard Association, founded to provide critical citizen oversight of the state’s correctional facilities, visits facilities each year, interviewing staff and inmates to “issue fact-based reports to the public and policy makers aimed at forging policies that ensure public safety, create opportunities for rehabilitation and make the most prudent use of tax dollars.”

A team from the association visited Big Muddy on Nov. 14, 2011 and more recently on March 8.

“...administrators report their greatest challenge is to continue to provide needed services while financial issues for the department to make budgetary decisions that adversely affect programs,” the report states. “Many exceptional, dedicated staff members at Big Muddy run programming while facing tremendous adversity and a chronic lack of vital resources.”

The facility has a population of 1,890, while it was designed to house 952 inmates when it was opened in 1993. The average age of inmates is 28 years, with the annual cost per inmate to house at $16,250 as reported in 2011. Five percent are in the prison for murder; 36 percent for Class X felonies, 17 percent for Class 1 felonies, 19 percent for Class 2 felonies, 8 percent for Class 3 felonies, 6 percent for Class 4 felonies; and 9 percent are unclassified felonies. Of those incarcerated at BMRCC, 34 percent were convicted in Cook County.

The facility has a sex offender population and has been designated within the IDOC to house inmates who are civilly committed as sexually dangerous persons.

“Since 2010, sex offenders have composed more than half of Big Muddy’s total population,” the report states. “Of these inmates, 173 are designated sexually dangerous persons who are civilly committed to IDOC custody until determined to be ‘recovered.’ ... SDPs are rarely released. Hence, the difficulties of SDP inmates and their aging population are largely analogous to those of other inmates who are older, sicker and staying in prison longer than ever before.”

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