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Local News

Will County may fill funding gap for specialty ARI court program

The Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet.
The Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet.

JOLIET – Will County’s specialty court coordinator, Julie McCabe-Sterr, asked Will County leaders Thursday to help bridge the gap for the Adult Redeploy Illinois program until a cash-strapped Illinois can follow through on its promised $203,000 that diverts high-risk offenders away from prison.

State-funded alternative court programs are designed to dramatically cut down on the number of nonviolent offenders in prison through rehabilitation, but Adult Redeploy Illinois state grant dollars are being held up because of the political gridlock in Springfield.

Will County Executive Committee Chairman Jim Moustis asked Thursday that the request be assigned to the county board’s Judicial and Finance committees for review. He also asked McCabe-Sterr to compile local data showing how much the county saves through the program.

McCabe-Sterr – who has been heavily involved with alternative court treatment for years – became emotional at one point Thursday while addressing board members.

“I do not like to spend a dime more than I have. ... I don’t just send people to training because we have money in the training fund. I don’t try a bunch of curriculum because I have money in curriculum,” McCabe-Sterr said. “I try to be fiscally responsible with the money you have entrusted me.”

McCabe-Sterr said when the state awarded her the grant, she hired three full-time and one part-time staff member for ARI court, but funding to pay for those positions never arrived. Without funding, she may have to lay off staff and reduce services, she said.

Will County has 82 participants who were assessed and given an individualized treatment plan involving targeted therapy, counseling and other services with a goal of reintegration into society.

McCabe-Sterr said Kane County was forced to shut down its state-funded Adult Redeploy Illinois specialty court program in December because of a lack of state grant dollars. Cook County may be faced with a similar fate if Illinois fails to get its act together soon, she said.

McCabe-Sterr said she will do what it takes to keep this program afloat. Illinois has saved about $70 million since the program’s inception in 2011, she said.

“We made a commitment to [the chief judge] that when we opened this program, we would see these people through,” she said after the meeting.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe said the county can’t subsidize the state’s shortcomings for long.

“We don’t want the state to start to perceive this as a situation where Will County is able to fund this so they are not going to give us this grant funding,” Tatroe said. “I’m hoping they’ll see ... we’re trying to hold this together until [Illinois] reimburses us.”

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The Adult Redeploy Illinois program has demonstrated significant cost savings while reducing pressure on the state’s prison system. While it costs roughly $21,500 a year to house an inmate in the state’s Department of Corrections, the average cost per ARI participant is $2,233.

Source: Adult Redeploy Illinois

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