Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and the Illinois Department of Corrections are not far apart on Curran's call for prisoner "moral rehabilitation," an IDOC spokesman said Wednesday.
Curran ended his self-imposed weeklong stay in his own jail Wednesday, and again called on the state prison system to follow his lead in providing for the spiritual needs of inmates.
In a theme Curran has repeated in the past week, he said religious mentoring by all major faiths, education and life skills programming, and a focus on preparing people to renter society, all help reduce crime.
"We do this so there are not future victims," he said. "This is good policy."
There are more than 500 volunteers working with inmates in the jail, Curran said, at no cost to taxpayers. He called his 760-bed facility "the finest jail in the nation," and said other jails and prisons would be well advised to follow his lead.
State prison officials say their system also recognizes the importance of rehabilitation, and has similar programs in place.
"We have a mission to stop the revolving door through which people return to prison, and we do so by preparing them to re-enter society," IDOC spokesman Derrick Schnapp said. "We have more than 8,000 volunteers state wide and a number of programs that address the religious needs of inmates."
Schnapp said prison officials are conscious that most people in their care will be released someday, and work vigorously to equip them with the skills they need to live law-abiding lives.
At a news conference after he left the Waukegan jail around 11 a.m., Curran acknowledged his experiences over the week he spent as an inmate were different from those of a regular inmate, but said security was never a question for him.
"I am not going to pass myself off as some suffering saint, because I know things were easier for me," Curran said. "But if an inmate would have taken a swing at me, he would have been on the floor in a second because I would have hit him so hard."
He said the beds were uncomfortable, the food was disappointing and the night he spent in the maximum security section was punctuated by the howling of his unruly neighbors.
But he was allowed to move though the various sections of the jail, unlike other prisoners, and met with his staff when necessary for office operations.
The time behind bars was necessary, Curran said, to encourage other institutions to invest more in prisoner rehabilitation.
Asked why he could not have just called a news conference and made a speech without the time in jail, Curran displayed a degree of media savvy.
"Because no one would have shown up," he said.