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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Illinois Prison Staff Get Trained To Handle Mentally Ill Inmates

"Prison Bars" by Flickr User Michael Coghlan / (CC X 2.0)

Most of the Illinois Department of Corrections workers have completed mental-illness training as part of  a settlement over how prisons treat inmates with mental health disorders.

State Prison Director John Baldwin says the training will make working in prison safer. 

"Seventy-eight percent of all assaults on staff across the United States are committed by an offender with an identified behavioral health issue," he said.  

But Alan Mills, a lawyer who sued for better treatment of mental health inmates, says some guards reject the training as too “touchy-feely.”  He says that, while prison leadership is on board, it’s essential to get front-line staff on board. 

 "There are a million ways that a guard can exercise his discretion in order to make real treatment impossible," Mills said. He says staff will buy in if they see that treating inmates with mental health issues makes their jobs better.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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