Published: October 18, 2009 12:28 am Facing freedom
Parolees find several services available
BY JENNIFER BAILEY
DANVILLE — A parolee from Cumberland County with no family or other ties here qualified for the Safety 1st program through the Illinois Department of Human Services.
The conditional release program is to reduce the likelihood of further sexual victimization by persons who have been declared by the court to be sexually violent persons.
The file was turned over to Liberty HealthCare Corp. of Chicago to determine where services could be provided for the person.
Liberty HealthCare manages and monitors SVPs who have been judicially ordered to serve a term of conditional release in an Illinois community.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said Danville was chosen for the parolee’s placement after three criteria were used: access to health care — in this case, Aunt Martha’s; housing meeting the restrictions for sex offenders is available; primary counseling located in the city — East Central Illinois Humanistics Inc. as a registered counseling center approved through the Attorney General’s Office Sex Offender Management Board.
Danville Township also is a resource for parolees, and others, for job assistance.
“We don’t discriminate,” said Danville Township Supervisor Christina Thompson Dietzen.
Parolees are coming into the community via a variety of ways, but primarily through Illinois Department of Corrections and Illinois Department of Human Services agency contracts, Eisenhauer says.
Eisenhauer has been researching “migration” issues impacting the city, such as Section 8 vouchers, for about five years. Parolees coming into the community with no ties became more of an issue about a year ago.
But last month, IDOC officials started removing parolees who were involved with Alcohol, Chemical Evaluation Services and other programs. If they were not committed from Vermilion County, then they would be removed from Danville and placed elsewhere, Eisenhauer said.
“We’re just happy the relocations have started,” Eisenhauer said, but added he didn’t know how many parolees have been taken away and where they were taken to in this first phase of relocations.
The IDOC has placed a moratorium on placing anyone in Danville who was not committed from Vermilion County, Eisenhauer said. But East Central Illinois Humanistics Inc. owners Olav Christensen and Rickey Williams Sr. said a moratorium on anyone moving here is “against their civil rights.”
“That’s a civil right to move out and about. It’s where the courts place them,” Williams said.
“I’m disheartened they blame us for increased danger to the community,” Christensen added. “We’re in the business of keeping the community safe.”
But they also add that with a prison here, the community is going to have some fallout. Families visit loved ones here and bring friends.
“We suffer the fallout. We’re just one agency that deals with it,” Williams said.
They say if Eisenhauer and state Rep. Bill Black want to fight the issue, Eisenhauer and Black must fight the IDOC, federal probation and other programs.
“They need to go talk to those people,” Williams said. “We do a service for our county.”
Eisenhauer agrees the court system is partly to blame. But he said ECI could also “just deny” the lucrative contracts.
Of the Cumberland County parolee, Christensen and Williams said they were an available treatment facility. They treat peo-ple from various counties, such as Cumberland, Edgar and Vermilion counties.
ECI HUMANISTICS’ ROLE
ECI Humanistics, which moved this year from its Fairchild Street location to the former Teamsters hall on Kimber Street off Logan Avenue, is approved by the Attorney General’s Office Sex Offender Management Board to provide evaluations on sex offenders for the courts, Christensen said. The Illinois Prison Review Board mandates sex offenders into treatment.
“Every community has them (sex offenders),” Christensen said.
The business started about 12 years ago.
“We provide a most valuable service,” Williams said.
Services offered by ECI Humanistics include: substance abuse and sex offender evaluations and treatment, DUI evaluations, family and individual counseling, addiction counseling — such as self-referred for Internet pornography addiction — and parent classes.
Of 209 registered sex offenders in Vermilion County, more than 70 of them were convicted in counties other than Vermilion County, Christensen said.
Williams said there are four ways a sex offender can come here: on their own; they are paroled here; there is an Interstate Compact (agreement between states under court supervision); or through the court system.
“We do not recruit,” Williams said. “That’s not our job.
“We have no control over who gets placed in the county.”
He added they have no jurisdiction in bringing people here.
Probation may assign a sex offender here from another state, such as a Florida man who had parents here, Williams said.
As part of their business, however, they receive funding from the sex offender’s county and the sex offender for their counseling services.
“We demand they pay their way (as part of reintegration into the community). Someone can’t just not pay their bills,” Wil-liams said.
ECI is now treating about 24 sex offenders.
Both Williams and Christensen have ties to IDOC. Williams previously was assistant warden at the Danville Correctional Center, while Christensen was a 17-year counselor at the Danville prison.
They say it costs $30,000 annually for an incarcerated person.
Those who are released with no containment team and those not caught yet are free to roam the streets.
Williams said for anyone to suggest they are putting the community at risk is not true.
“That’s our job to keep the community safe,” he said. “We care about the community and would not put the public at risk.”
“The ones getting caught are not a danger to the community,” Christensen said.
ECI Humanistics has a contract with Liberty Healthcare as do other counseling services locally and in other counties.
Christensen said the sex offenders the court system sends here are monitored and have jobs. He said the success rate of their business is 99 percent of those treated.
ECI doesn’t work with juvenile offenders, who tend to have more than a 50 percent recidivism rate. After treatment, others could see a 27 percent recidivism rate.
“Treatment works and it provides safety to the community. We’re passionate about what we do…,” Christensen said.
ECI can treat on average 30 sex offenders at a time. It also currently treats two sexually violent persons.
“And they’re not dangerous,” Christensen said.
Most parolees are excellent workers, Williams added.
DANVILLE TOWNSHIP’S ROLE
Danville Township’s Food Stamp Employment and Training Program is a source of assistance for anyone needing help finding a job, whether the person is a parolee or not.
The township receives about $58,000 each year for the program through the Illinois Department of Human Services, in addition to as much as $22,000 in bonuses for finding people work.
Dietzen said the program meets a township goal of public assistance.
Program Administrator Chuck Brooks said some parolees go through the program, but not as many as Eisenhauer has been saying. Referrals for the program, in effect here for about eight years, come through the Public Aid office.
Brooks said the township has an option to recruit, but doesn’t because there is normally a waiting list of about 300 people. The target is to assist about 45 a month, but there are normally 60/70 referrals a month and only 18 EarnFare slots. EarnFare is designed to provide adults who receive food stamps and volunteer an opportunity to gain work experience, earn cash assistance and become self-sufficient.
EarnFare participants work off the value of their food stamps at the prevailing minimum wage and then have the opportunity to work additional hours to earn up to $294 per month. Participation is limited to six months out of any 12 consecutive months (July-June).
Those who can benefit are adults age 18 to 49 on food stamps and live in Danville Township.
“Basically we try to lift the barriers for employment,” Brooks said.
Some don’t have the needed skills because they’ve never had a job in their life, he said.
The short-lived bus to take workers to Champaign and Rantoul also was a great concept, Brooks said, but failed due to costs and the high diesel prices.
Some EarnFare participants help out at the Salvation Army, humane society and other places, Brooks added. http://www.commercial-news.com/local/local_story_291012801.html