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Expanding Literacy Attainment and Special Education Opportunities in the Illinois Department of Corrections

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $899,941)

With the support of BJA, the Illinois Department of Corrections hope to address multiple challenges in adult education. IDOC plans to reduce or eliminate instructional interruptions, create a digitized adult educational resource available on tablets, and introduce processes for identifying and serving individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or traumatic brain injuries. In collaboration with other state agencies.

The first focus of this project is adult education. IDOC plans to address long waitlists by adjusting staffing levels at reception centers, allowing IDOC to reduce service interruptions. In conjunction with this change, IDOC will also work to develop a digitized suite of adult education services and resources that will augment its existing programs, allowing students to advance more quickly and enabling waitlisted students to make educational gains outside the classroom.

 Simultaneously, IDOC plans to engage with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), and formerly incarcerated individuals, to create a service array for three special populations: those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), those with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and those with learning disabilities (LD). The Multi-Stakeholder Working Group will identify appropriate assessment tools and specialized services for these subpopulations.

Addressing these two goals in tandem will allow IDOC to make meaningful progress towards rectifying systemic educational barriers that hinder the success of returning citizens. First, by scaling the use of tablet-based education, IDOC can address longstanding challenges with waitlists and provide additional opportunities for people to invest in their own human capital. Educational advancement is crucial for desistance, but more importantly for becoming self-sufficient, developing a strong sense of self-worth, and more generally for leading a fulfilled life. Expanding these options will allow IDOC’s existing education infrastructure to provide more individualized guidance and assistance to those in need. Accomplishing these two goals will lead to reduced recidivism, in turn promoting public safety and reducing crime.

Simultaneously, IDOC can also begin to identify, diagnose, and develop more effective interventions for special populations. While IDOC knows that these challenges exist within the incarcerated population, and likely at a much higher incidence than in the general population, the agency currently has no tools in place to identify these conditions and as a result also has no specialized resources available to these populations. Once the agency can better identify its special populations, it can facilitate connections to post-release services available through DHS.

Date Created: December 7, 2021