JOLIET – Will County’s specialty court programs, designed to decrease the number of nonviolent offenders in prison, will see expanded services in the coming months.
On Thursday, the Will County Board approved supplemental allocation of $335,551.39 from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts into the Will County state’s attorney’s specialty court budget.
Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt and Director of Court Services John Prinzi had been in communication with the AOIC in hopes of using supplemental allocation for specialty courts, which had not received state grant funding from the General Assembly for months. The efforts paid off.
“They deserve applause,” State’s Attorney James Glasgow said Thursday morning during the board meeting. “It’s a really important program.”
The funding will help expand all specialty courts, which include Adult Redeploy Illinois, drug court, mental health court and veterans court. In the process, it will enable the State’s Attorney’s Office to continue ARI for an undetermined period, office spokesman Charles Pelkie said.
ARI was at risk of shutting down because of lack of state grant funding.
“This is a miracle,” Glasgow said.
Will County's specialty court coordinator, Julie McCabe-Sterr, said in April that the program would have to be shut down June 30 if the state didn't provide grant dollars for it. The county was awarded a $302,615 state grant to pay for ARI in the current fiscal year, but it never arrived amid the state budget impasse.
Glasgow said specialty courts help avoid a common trend with low-level offenders: They get sent to prison, then can’t get hired by employers. He said it creates a cycle. Instead of sitting in a prison cell, under specialty courts would-be inmates receive therapy, counseling and other services with a goal of reintegration into society.
“For the most part, these people are trying their best to maintain jobs and pay taxes,” Glasgow told the board.
Of the almost 200 specialty courts participants, 112 receive additional services through the ARI program. The average annual ARI intervention cost per person is estimated at $4,400; the average annual cost of prison per person is $21,500, according to a 2014 ARI Oversight Board annual report.