If reducing Illinois' prison population is the goal, criminal justice reformers have no shortage of ideas on how that can be accomplished.
Speaking at a hearing of the state's commission on criminal justice reform in Chicago, Heather O'Donnell, vice president of policy at Thresholds mentioned getting those with mental illnesses out of prisons and into treatment programs will not help alleviate prison overcrowding, but will reduce recidivism.
"People with mental illnesses are the only population that end up in the justice system because they have an illness, and that is simply unconscionable," O'Donnell said. "The state needs to look at how it invest its mental health dollars."
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O'Donnell estimates the most the state would pay per year to treat and house someone with a severe illness, such as schizophrenia, is $20,000. The annual cost to keep that same individual in prison would be $37,000, and O'Donnell emphasizes prisons are not meant to be treatment centers.
Other methods suggested to reduce the state's prison population included reclassifying certain non-violent offenses as misdemeanors, and reviewing or changing mandatory minimum sentencing laws.