JHA Special Report: Kewanee The Inaugural IDOC Life Skills Reentry Center Facility Report
John Howard Association of Illinois
The John Howard Association of Illinois (JHA) had our first official visit to the Kewanee Life Skills Reentry Center (LSRC) in April 2018, about a year after it opened in mid-February 2017 with the first 10 men housed within Kewanee LSRC (Kewanee) as an Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) facility.1 Population at Kewanee on the date of the April 2018 visit was 215, nearly double the population of 130 men housed at the facility a few months earlier at the beginning of 2018.2 The operational, or bed-space, capacity at Kewanee has been reported differently, from 538 to 648.3 Administrators stated that they expected to soon increase population to 280 when a third housing unit is opened. However, the facility capacity remains undecided, as increasing the population to the reported operational capacity is not yet considered feasible while maintaining program integrity.4 Kewanee’s population made up just about .5% of the approximately 41,060 people incarcerated within IDOC; nonetheless, the novel work of this facility merits review.
Kewanee had been an Illinois Youth Center run by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) until the closure of that facility in June 2016. JHA had called for the closure of the facility for youth for several years due to chronic issues and the low population throughout IDJJ.5 However, JHA strongly supported repurposing the facility for adults, in part because it has a much newer and better physical plant than most adult facilities,6 and to provide specialized services sorely lacking throughout IDOC.7 Ultimately, with Kewanee, Illinois chose to try something that had been talked about for years and encouraged by many including JHA, to use the facility to provide intensive programming and reentry preparation for those who were at a higher risk to recidivate.8 As Kewanee administrators explained, they don’t want “the best of the best,” or people who are already at a low level of risk to reoffend, and who are not coming back anyway, because providing intensive reentry programming for that population will not make as much of a difference.
JHA also notes that providing more humane treatment and productive programming undoubtably will benefit both individuals and society.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive