Prisoners’ Rights Group Hopes New IDOC Director Tackles Overcrowding, Treatment Of Mentally Ill

(CBS) — The head of a prisoner rights group weighs in on the revolving door at the Illinois Department of Corrections, reports WBBM’s Nancy Harty.

Like many people, John Howard Association Executive Director Jennifer Vollen-Katz considers it a bit of a mystery why Donald Stolworthy left the job as corrections director after less than three months.

She says he wasn’t around long enough for people to understand his concerns.

“Kind of out of the ordinary, perhaps cause for concern although I don’t think anyone got enough information to know exactly what the concerns were,” she said.

The post has been held by two placeholders since Governor Rauner came aboard and before he tapped John Baldwin.

Vollen-Katz doesn’t know Baldwin, but is familiar with his work as Iowa’s prison chief and the challenges facing him here.

“It’s a difficult place to live, it’s a difficult place to work and it’s a difficult place to manage,” she said.

The state’s 25 adult facilities are currently housing about 48,000 inmates, but are designed to hold 32,000.

Vollen-Katz is hopeful Baldwin will be able to fix the overcrowding, understaffing and improper housing of mentally ill inmates.

Additionally, she is looking forward to Baldwin implementing some changes the governor and lawmakers have pledged – such as reducing the number of inmates and changing sentencing laws.

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