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The Illinois State Prison System

The Illinois prison system is the third and final stage of the criminal judicial system. It monitors the process of incarceration, probation, and reentry/rehabilitation of convicted criminals serving jail time. The Illinois Department of Corrections is tasked with managing the affairs and operations of all state-owned correctional centers. Municipal jails and county jails are different establishments managed by local agencies. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the affairs of federal prisons located in the state.

What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Illinois?

Jail and prison are correctional centers often used interchangeably in common terms, but they have different technical meanings. In the Illinois prison system, jails are operated at the county level while prisons are operated at the state level. County jails are used for short-term criminals, i.e. individuals awaiting trial or serving short sentences. State prisons are used for long-term criminals, i.e. convicted felons or any persons serving more than two jail time.

How Many Prisons are in Illinois?

In Illinois, there are four reception and classification centers used for processing individuals who have just been handed their jail sentences. Below are the four R&C centers based on their operational capacity (from the highest to lowest).

  • Northern Reception and Classification Center
  • Graham Reception and Classification Center
  • Logan Reception and Classification Center
  • Menard Reception and Classification Center

There are 28 correctional facilities used for housing inmates. Below are the facilities listed according to their operational capacity (from highest to lowest).

  • Menard Correctional Center
  • Dixon Correctional Center
  • Lawrence Correctional Center
  • Pinckneyville Correctional Center
  • Shawnee Correctional Center
  • Sheridan Correctional Center
  • Illinois River Correctional Center
  • Logan Correctional Center
  • Graham Correctional Center
  • Western Illinois Correctional Center
  • Hill Correctional Center
  • Danville Correctional Center
  • Vandalia Correctional Center
  • Stateville Correctional Center
  • Vienna Correctional Center
  • Big Muddy River Correctional Center
  • Centralia Correctional Center
  • Pontiac Correctional Center
  • East Moline Correctional Center
  • Robinson Correctional Center
  • Taylorville Correctional Center
  • Lincoln Correctional Center
  • Jacksonville Correctional Center
  • Decatur Correctional Center
  • Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center
  • Pontiac Medium Security Unit
  • Menard Medium Security Unit

The state operates an impact incarceration program (or boot camps) which provides eligible convicts with the opportunity to lessen their jail sentence. There are also five work camps in the state that serve similar purposes. The boot and work camps in Illinois are:

  • Dixon Springs Impact Incarceration Program
  • Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program
  • Clayton Work Camp
  • Greene County Work Camp
  • Pittsfield Work Camp
  • Southwestern Illinois Work Camp
  • Stateville Minimum Security Unit

Also, four adult transition centers are used for preparing inmates for life after their jail sentence.

  • Crossroads Adult Transition Center
  • Peoria Adult Transition Center
  • North Lawndale ATC
  • Fox Valley Adult Transition Center

How do I search for an Inmate in Illinois State Prison?

The Illinois Department of Corrections maintains an easy online search tool for locating inmates in any of the correctional centers. The central database is accessible by providing the last name, IDOC number, or birth date of the inmate. The search result includes photographs, name, and location of the inmate. The sentence information of the inmate is equally available on the search results. Note that it is impossible to find inmates in county and municipal jails. The local agencies maintain these. Interested persons seeking to visit an inmate are advised to read the visitation rules.

Are Incarceration Records Public in Illinois?

In Illinois, incarceration records are found under criminal records, which are accessible to the public as mandated by the Freedom of Information Act. The act was passed for accountability and transparency in government agencies. Apart from incarceration records, other information that is included on criminal records are:

  • Arrest reports
  • Police reports
  • Court proceedings and sentence
  • Probation records etc.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Look Up Jail Records in Illinois?

Jail history searches are provided by the county jail administrator or county sheriff. Individuals can access inmate information by visiting the jail facility in person. However, most counties offer online searches. Examples are Cook county inmate search and DuPage county inmate information.

Criminal history records in Illinois are obtainable at the county and state level. The Illinois State Police (ISP) maintains and provides public access to these records. Requesters can obtain these records by performing a name-based search or fingerprints based search. Name-based searches are available online through CHIRP (Criminal History Information Response Process). Note that only conviction reports are contained in this public file. Requesters can only obtain these records by applying for a Digital ID and then proceed to pay $10 for the online document. Fingerprint based searches are more expensive and are only accessible by the record holder or law enforcement agencies in Illinois. Interested persons may contact:

Illinois State Police, Bureau of Identification,
260 N. Chicago St.
Joliet, IL 60432
Phone: (815) 740-5160

The department is open on all business days from 8 am to 4 pm. Alternatively, requesters can submit their fingerprints to the department via an approved fingerprint vendor in Illinois. The service costs $20. Criminal records created at the local level are accessible by contacting the law enforcement agencies in charge of the documents. For instance, criminals arrested in Chicago can obtain records from the Chicago Police Department. The department grants only in-person and mail requests.

Can Jail Records be Expunged in Illinois?

According to section 20 ILCS 2630/12 (Criminal Identification Act), a criminal record may be expunged or totally destroyed. An expunged record wholly removed and will no longer be available to law enforcement agencies. However, expungement in Illinois is only possible when an offender is not convicted of a crime. Convictions that were vacated, received an executive pardon, or received a Certificate of Eligibility for Expungement are also eligible for expungement.

Eligible persons can obtain their criminal records to initiate the process of expungement. Afterwards, fill the request to expunge form and submit at any one of the circuit clerk's offices. Other forms will be presented by the clerk, which should be completed and submitted. A court hearing will be set up once the request is approved. Requesters are advised to bring a state-approved ID, stamped copies of their forms, reports revealing the details of educational background and employment history. After the hearing, requesters should get an email stating whether their request is approved or declined.

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