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Dr. Quintana Surveys Illinois Prisoners for Justice Reform Recommendations 04.12.16
Dr. Quintana Surveys Illinois Prisoners for Justice Reform Recommendations

Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of Adler University’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ), has coauthored and presented a report to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform that outlines recommendations based on suggestions from Illinois inmates themselves.

Their responses describe opportunities for improved investment in healthcare, education, and support that will help inmates transition back into their communities—and avoid returning to prison.

Quintana, a recognized criminal justice reform expert, generated The Prison Letter Report after she was appointed to the commission—and recognized it included no current or formerly incarcerated people.

“I’m glad Governor Rauner and our commission have given attention to the need for criminal justice reform in Illinois,” Quintana said. “However, I don’t see how we can accomplish this without talking to the people most affected—those in the Illinois correctional system.”

To facilitate that input for the commission, Quintana organized an IPPSJ research team and developed a survey to solicit information from Illinois inmates about their experiences, and obtain their suggestions for improvement.

She sent the survey to four inmates at each of Illinois’s 25 prisons. Within two months, she received more than 1,180 responses.

Quintana and her team analyzed the responses and identified common themes that suggest:

  • Harsh sentences combined with prisons’ prohibitive visitation policies have irreparably broken families, leaving inmates’ children without resources and family support and more likely to become offenders themselves—ultimately, hurting community safety.
  • Access to healthcare is a major issue. Prisoners reported seeing other inmates die after waiting days for treatment. Also cited was poor quality of care. A number of respondents reported that ibuprofen is used to treat virtually all ailments.
  • Supports are sorely needed for those who are released from prison in transitioning back to their communities. Access to education is sporadic, with limited options for programs, according to survey responses. Prison policies and staff also actively discourage and obstruct inmates’ access to training programs, respondents said.

“I think this data helps explain some of the trends we’re seeing nationally, especially in the area of recidivism,” Quintana said. “If we’re breaking peoples’ connections to their families; providing them no education, skills training, or help in transitioning back to their communities—then what hope can they possibly have? And what more can we possibly expect of them, other than returning to crime?”

Access the full report online.

About Adler University

Adler University educates students to engage the world and create a more just society. Established in 1952, it enrolls more than 1,400 students in master’s and doctoral programs for social change through its campuses in downtown Chicago and Vancouver, as well as an Online Campus. Adler University’s mission is to continue the pioneering work of Alfred Adler, the first community psychologist, by graduating socially responsible practitioners, engaging communities and advancing social justice.