State To Open Mental Health Facility For Inmates In Joliet

CHICAGO (CBS) — A former youth prison in Joliet has been transformed into a new treatment center for mentally ill inmates.

The state of Illinois settled a lawsuit dealing with the treatment of mentally ill prison inmates in 2015. As part of that settlement, the state has converted the former Illinois Youth Center prison in Joliet into a mental health treatment unit for inmates with severe mental illness.

“It will have the most robust mental health staff of all of our facilities. We’re really excited about that. We will concentrate on offenders – or residents, I should say – that will require more structured and more focused mental health service delivery,” said Dr. Melvin Hinton, the chief of mental health services at the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Hinton said the new residential treatment unit (RTU) will provide expanded levels of care to inmates who most need them.

“For folks at RTU level of care, we’re going to require them to have at least – at Joliet, specifically – 15 hours of structured therapeutic activity and instructor activity weekly,” Hinton said.

The facility, and smaller ones like it, will address concerns stemming from a 2007 class action lawsuit regarding the treatment of mentally ill inmates in Illinois prisons.

“It puts them in a specific place where we can target resources for that category of folks that require it,” Hinton said.

Residential treatment units also will be opened at the Dixon, Pontiac and Logan prisons for inmates with less severe needs.

The facility in Joliet will begin accepting inmates by year’s end.

Watch & Listen LIVE