Creative Reuse of Vacant (Or Soon to Be) Spaces

I moved to Illinois in 1976, over 35 years ago, to take a job with the National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture at the University of Illinois. I didn’t know much about prisons and jails then, but it wasn’t long before I found out they had become big business and were about to get even bigger.

The year of my move, a little over 11 million people lived in Illinois. That has not changed too much over the years. About 12.8 million people live here now, a 13 percent increase. In 1976, we had about 8,000 people in prison but then strange things began to happen. We decided to get tough on crime, and all sorts of legislation requiring mandatory-minimum sentences and truth-in-sentencing was passed. Forced releases, a means of controlling capacities, were eliminated. A wave of young adults passed through the courts system, and drug-related arrests exploded. And the legislature opened its pocketbook to build new beds in response.

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