MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

John Howard Association of Illinois

Chicago, Illinois | 2015 Award Recipient

Conducting independent oversight to ensure humane and fair treatment of the incarcerated in Illinois

As the sole independent watchdog over the state’s correctional facilities, the John Howard Association of Illinois promotes an efficient justice system that ensures public safety while treating the incarcerated with dignity and helping them successfully reintegrate into society.

Through objective monitoring and close collaboration with those working in and affected by the justice system, the Association provides visibility into typically closed institutions and educates the public and policymakers about the real consequences of criminal justice policies.

The Association regularly inspects all facilities in the Illinois adult and juvenile prison systems, monitors parole and reentry mechanisms, and communicates with more than 3,000 inmates and family members each year to provide assistance and track their experiences.

Through its research, policy recommendations, and collaborations with correctional facilities and state agencies, the Association has driven reform at the facility, agency, and state policy levels. Following a report from the Association exposing flaws in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s “Half-Way Back” program for parole violators, the agency abandoned the initiative and invested resources in more effective transitional programming. The Association’s reporting prompted the Illinois General Assembly to hold public hearings on prison healthcare, which led to an audit of the Department of Corrections’ healthcare system.

Collaborating with a broad-based coalition opposing harsh mandatory-minimum sentences for illegal gun possession, the Association’s advocacy led to the formation of the Illinois Joint Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, which will explore more balanced and judicious use of incarceration in response to crime.

The Association will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award to establish an innovation fund, as well as to enhance its communications, public outreach, and volunteer coordination capacities.

Grantee Profile: Learn more about John Howard Association

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