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Some Illinois Inmates Must Wait Years for Substance Abuse Treatment

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Some Illinois prison inmates have to wait years for substance abuse treatment because of the state’s growing prison population, according to a prison watchdog group.

The John Howard Association of Illinois says that the decision by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to end the state’s mandatory release program, which cut many prison stays by up to 180 days by rewarding inmates’ good behavior, has resulted in long waits for inmates who need substance abuse treatment at the all-female Decatur Correctional Center.

The Quad-City Times reports that while 120 inmates at the facility are enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program, another 262 are on a waiting list.  “At more than double the enrollment, inmates can potentially spend years on the waitlist before they are finally enrolled,” the report states.

The report notes that one problem with such a long waitlist is that it prevents eligible inmates from shaving time off their sentence by completing drug treatment programming.

Deb Denning, Chief of Programs and Support Services at the Illinois Department of Corrections, told the newspaper she thinks waiting times for substance abuse treatment at the prison is shorter than the report indicates, ranging from 60 to 90 days. She said that inmates who cannot enroll in a particular substance abuse program have access to other programs and classes that can also help them.

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