The state corrections director said his department wants to build the nation’s “premier mental health facility” for inmates in Joliet.
The Department of Corrections this week announced plans to build a
$150 million inpatient facility at its Joliet Treatment Center by mid-2021.
It will have at least 200 beds and be staffed with more than 400 workers, including doctors, psychologists and nurses.
The Joliet facility also is being described as the biggest capital spending project yet during Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.
Construction is expected to start in late winter or early spring on the west end of the Joliet Treatment Center, which replaced the Illinois Youth Center-Joliet, on McDonough Street.
The inpatient center will take inmates with some of the most severe mental health problems throughout the state corrections system to be treated in Joliet in a hospital environment, said John Baldwin, acting director of the Department of Corrections.
“It is going to look like a hospital, and it will have to serve as a correctional facility,” Baldwin said. “We are really trying to create the premier mental health facility in the United States for a correctional center.”
The 180,000-square-foot facility also will include a new administration center and physical plant for the Joliet Treatment Center, a residential center for inmates with mental illness.
The hospital is being built as part of a settlement the state reached to resolve a lawsuit over the treatment provided for mentally ill inmates.
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, described the future hospital as “an investment in public safety.”
“Of the 40,000 people in Illinois prisons, approximately 90 percent will return to their community at some point in time,” McGuire said. “We need to prepare them for society as law abiding citizens. This is one way to do it.”
Baldwin said it is his understanding the $150 million budget for the facility is the largest public capital project during the Rauner administration.
“From a state investment standpoint, it’s pretty extraordinary,” said John Greuling, CEO for the Will County Center for Economic Development. “There certainly hasn’t been any project around here in Chicago that big. That’s a big number.”
The estimates 400-plus jobs at the inpatient center are expected to be in addition to about 300 jobs at the treatment center.