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Lawmakers Look To Fill Empty Beds At Correctional Boot Camps

Illinois Department of Corrections
Prisoners planting the garden at the Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program, often referred to as a boot camp.

Illinois lawmakers want to divert more people convicted of crimes from prison to boot camp.

Legislation being considered in the Illinois Senate would let Department of Corrections officials decide who gets to go.

That’s currently left up to the sentencing judge. But the department said the state’s two boot camps — in Du Quoin and Dixon Springs — are at just 12 percent of capacity.

Supporters argue boot camps, formally called impact incarceration programs, offer more services than prison, including education, job skills and hygiene training.

State Rep. Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, said people can also get out sooner.

“They are trading off sometimes a long sentence — several years — for 18 months at a boot camp,” Bryant said. “There are a lot of good qualities about the boot camps and we want to get those beds filled so we can move some folks out a little bit quicker.”

To qualify, offenders must be no older than age 35, have a sentence of less than eight years and pass a screening for physical and mental fitness. Prior record is also considered. Certain offenses — like class X felonies, some violent crimes and sexual assault — are excluded.

Under the legislation, a judge could still stop someone from going to boot camp if they specifically prohibit it during sentencing.

The legislation is House Bill 3168.

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