Ground Breaks On New Inmate Mental Health Facility

Bernie Tafoya
March 18, 2019 - 1:10 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Ground was broken Monday morning in Joliet for a 200-bed in-patient facility that will primarily serve Illinois prison inmates with serious mental illness.  

Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin said "this is going to fundamentally change how somebody leaves us." 

Baldwin admits that, when mentally ill inmates are let out of prison, the outcomes are not good.  Many times, they wind up back in prison. 

He estimates 14-15 percent of the 38,655 inmates have serious mental illinesses with 30-35 percent of the total inmate population having a mental illness of some kind.

"We are dealing with them in very old facilities. Some have been converted to residential treatment units that are good, but they aren’t at this level. Some people need a hospital-like setting," Baldwin said.

The $150-million facility is expected to be built by late 2021.

New in-patient treatment center
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

The new facility will have 150 beds for seriously mentally ill inmates and 50 beds for general medical purposes.  

Andrea Tack is warden at the Joliet Treatment Center and said that, with thousands of seriously mentally ill inmates in the prison system, a state-of-the-art facility is needed.

"This 150 beds that we’re getting, although we could use double and triple that, what an opportunity to provide the care that we need to," she said.

New in-patient treatment facility
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

The state started working on plans for the facility a couple of years ago after a federal judge had ruled the state’s treatment of mentally ill inmates was not adequate.

Marcus Hardy, the executive assistant to the director of the IDOC said of the groundbreaking that, "History is being made here today. With the construction of a state-of-the-art in-patient treatment center, IDOC is taking a major leap forward."

State Rep. Lawrence Walsh Jr. said, "This is a moment in history where the state of Illinois actually got something right. What we’re doing here today is making right what has been the past wronged."