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Senior U.S. Senators Gauge Criminal Justice Reform At Illinois Prison

Chase Cavanaugh

Two senior U.S. Senators toured a federal prison in northwestern Illinois Tuesday.

The Administrative United States Penitentiary is based in Thomson, Illinois. Budget shortfalls meant the facility was sold to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012. Since then, staff and inmate numbers have gone up, but new employees are having difficulty finding nearby housing. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois explains.

“They need apartments, they need condos, they need homes," he said. "Well, that’s got to be part of our commitment too. But it means building our communities on both sides of the river so that they grow in population, something we haven’t seen in a long, long time."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa joined Durbin to tour the prison. They wanted to see how it implements the First Step Act. Grassley says the law contains several reforms meant to reduce the level of repeat offenders.

“This part of the program is just getting underway. But I leave Thomson prison with a feeling that they’re into it and they want to fully carry out the goals that Congress established with a bill the president signed last December," he said.

Senators Durbin and Grassley also stressed the importance of cross-state collaboration on projects like Thomson.

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Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky. He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer. He organizes our morning broadcast, making sure the host is well-supplied with interesting, fresh content. In addition to his pre-dawn duties, Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection. He is also an avid board gamer.