Wednesday, 27 Aug, 2008 Offbeat

Sheriff Ends His Self-Imprisonment to Better Understand Inmates


Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who voluntarily spent a week behind the bars to know what it feels like and to help inmates adapt after leaving the prison, will tell about his experience upon release at news conference.

Sheriff, who was admitted to county jail in Waukegan last week wanted to have a closer look at inmate's lives and increase the efforts to jail's anti-recidivism. Curran lived among inmates, attending parenting and family communication class, working on road-cleanup crew and sitting in with the substance abuse group.

The official went through the whole process of booking at the jail, being fingerprinted, having his blood pressure checked and given a plastic identification bracelet on his right wrist.

The Illinois Department of Corrections "has treated inmates like caged animals, only to see them released back into their communities angrier and more bitter than they originally were", Curran said on his first day in prison.

The idea of going to jail to better understand the life behind the bars struck him in a church at law-enforcement leadership conference in Barrington. Being a Catholic, he explained his decision by religious beliefs, seeing it as an act of redemption and forgiveness.

Curran said that he wants to improve programs to help inmates succeed after they have left the prison. He initiated the Malachi program at the jail, comprising of Bible-reading and talks on parenting. As a part of this program he asked inmates to write their children every week.

The sheriff had his own cell, but spent several nights with the other inmates, sleeping in beds arranged in rows in a large room and also one night in the maximum-security segregation unit and the jail's medical unit.

The Illinois Department of Corrections holds about 740 inmates, charged with a wide range of crimes, including sexual assault and murder. The jail officials assured that Curran would not be in danger. Although, the sheriff made a decision to spend a week in jail, he said he realized that his experience would differ from the typical inmate's one. "Who are we kidding? I'm being paid a salary of nearly $140,000 to sit in here," he added.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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