CHICAGO – Sheriffs and units of local governments will have a new tool to hopefully address blighted properties, create transitional housing and reduce the number of inmates who reoffend under a new law that takes effect the first of the year.
State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, sponsored the Neighborhood Restoration and Alternative Sentencing Act as a way to improve neighborhoods and train work-release inmates in practical, construction skills giving them a better chance at employment after completing their sentences.
“This is a unique solution that helps solve three separate problems facing communities in Illinois. It reduces the rate that former inmates reoffend because they can’t find lawful work, repurposes blighted properties and gives local governments new housing options,” Cunningham said.
The law authorizes Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to train county work-release inmates while rehabilitating, demolishing or rebuilding claimed property. The vacant houses targeted by the sheriff’s programs are located in poor communities and have been foreclosed on by a bank.
The refurbished buildings can then be used by city and county governments as transitional housing to house the homeless, mentally ill or low income families.
This program, pioneered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, will apply to counties across the state.
The law takes effect Jan. 1.