"The Illinois Department of
Corrections is taking prison-based treatment and re-entry management
to the next level of performance through its dedication to the
successful re-entry of inmates into society," said IDOC Director
Roger E. Walker Jr. "The programs under the Women and Family
Services Division are designed to address the unique medical,
social, psychological and education needs of the committed female
offender. The division also serves the needs of the female offender
by the development of special programs that recognize, support and
maintain her parental role and responsibilities."
under the Women and Family Services Division are Dwight Correctional
Center and the Kankakee Minimum Security Unit that serves as
Dwight's satellite facility, Decatur Correctional Center, Lincoln
Correctional Center, Fox Valley Adult Transition Center (work
release center), Women's Treatment Center, and Illinois Youth
"Treatment and services for women are based on their competencies
and strengths and promote self-reliance," said Deputy Director of
Women Family Services Debbie Denning. "Focus groups are held
throughout the division that address healing from trauma, domestic
violence and sexual assault as well as grief understanding and
All female facilities are dedicated to treating substance abuse.
Denning said that substance abuse treatment is designed to be
gender-specific and deals with pathways into substance-abusing
behavior. To fully address the needs of female inmates, the programs
use a variety of interventions and individualized treatment plans.
Spiritual programs also are encouraged and considered an important
element of the holistic treatment concept. Women involved in
substance-abuse programs additionally are given an opportunity to
parole into treatment environments through the Treatment
Accountability for Safer Communities re-entry initiative.
All of the women's facilities offer parenting programs.
"The division continually promotes a variety of programs to
strengthen and reinforce the bonding between mothers and their
children," Denning said. "Children and families play an important
role in the management of offenders in custodial settings."
At IYC-Warrenville, through the FOCUS program, teenage mothers
receive visits with their infants in a structured setting separate
from the general visiting room. Children receive a warm welcome in
the comfortable and well-stocked playroom. Counseling staff monitors
visits and advises the mothers regarding parenting practices.
Family activities are in abundance at the adult facilities as
well. To support these efforts, Sister Pat Davis continues to
charter buses from Chicago to female facilities for family visits.
Video visiting programs also have been implemented to facilitate
visiting of Cook County children with their mothers. The Women's
Treatment Center in Chicago serves as the video site to link
children with their mothers at Decatur. The Department of
Corrections has applied for grant funds to expand the programs to
Dwight and Lincoln.
Reunification visits on the housing unit at Decatur also have
been established year-round for women who meet the criteria. In
addition, day camp programs at Lincoln and Dwight bring mothers
together with children and storybook programs allow mothers to read
books to their children on audiotapes.
Vocational education opportunities are available to the women
offenders. Focus is directed on home-based business programs,
including food catering, service dog training, kenneling, nail
technology and cosmetology. Women also are being trained in higher
paying, nontraditional fields such as carpentry, electrical services
and building maintenance.
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A part of the vocational initiative is the linkage between the
vocational program and employers in the community who are willing to
hire ex-offenders. The division plans to use job fairs and community
sponsors to further enhance re-entry efforts.
"The goal is to expand home-based business opportunities for the
female offender as well as create a foundation for financial
independence for the mother and her children," Denning said.
The Women and Family Services Division also promotes cultural
awareness and sensitivity through the resources and strengths
available through staff, volunteers and community organizations.
"Mentoring programs are being developed to assist in bridging the
gap between prison and community. These programs link the female
offender to a positive female role model from the community to which
the offender will return. Mentors assist with giving the parolee
moral support, job re-entry advice and guidance for community
resources," Denning said.
"Transitional programs also are included as part of gender
responsive practices with a particular focus on building long-term
community support networks for women. All facilities within the
Women and Family Services Division have referral sources and funding
for transitional assistance in housing, employment and educational
needs," Denning said. "This support is through various grant-funded
programs as well as through the department's Placement Resource
Unit. For instance, the Faith in Transition Program assists women at
Decatur and Lincoln Correctional Centers with transitional needs
regarding housing and employment training."
To support their re-entry, all women who are released from the
Department of Corrections are given the opportunity to take home
clothing donated by the community. The clothing ranges from casual
to business attire and helps the offender to confidently reintegrate
into society without the stigma of being recently released.
Donations are accepted by all of the women's facilities.
"A final initiative is to become good neighbors to the
community," Denning said. "Community service projects include Wigs
for Kids donations, Harvest Walks for the Hungry, Special Olympics
activities and Project Linus, in which crocheted and quilted items
are donated to critically ill children. Through this joint
participation by staff and offenders, the division hopes to raise
the level of awareness of volunteerism and good faith to the
The Women and Family Services Division is frequently contacted
regarding donations. The division freely accepts women's clothing
items, scrap material for quilts, crochet yarn, colored paper for
crafts, children's toys (without metal), religious materials and
greeting card donations. To donate items, please contact the deputy
director's office at Dwight Correctional Center at (815) 584-2806,
Average daily female inmate population
Dwight Correctional Center, 991
Kankakee Minimum Security Unit, 91
Decatur Correctional Center, 514
Lincoln Correctional Center, 952
Fox Valley Adult Transition Center, 124
Women's Treatment Center, 11
Illinois Youth Center - Warrenville, 102
[Illinois Department of Corrections news release]