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State's prison population declines; senior fair coming up soon

Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - Posted 5:00:42 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett

As always, you can contact me via webform at, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.

Illinois prison population down 20 percent

Over the past five years we have seen a significant decline in the headcount of prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) system. Over that time, the number of prisoners in DOC facilities fell by close to 20 percent. According to a recent report from NPR Illinois, the headcount of IDOC prisoners fell from 49,401 down to 39,204. It helped to ease the burdens on IDOC and its staff, which have been a growing challenge in recent years due to an aging prison population and pressure from the courts to provide more per-prisoner services.

The prison population has been generally increasing since the 1970s (when it was fewer than 10,000) as the state has gotten tougher on drugs, sexual abuse and other violent crimes. That has resulted in more convictions and longer sentences. The change marked the first time since 1996 that there were fewer than 40,000 inmates in the IDOC system.

Senior fair coming up August 15

I will be hosting a FREE senior fair on Thursday August 15 at the Pontiac Rec Center, located at 900 N. Elm Street in Pontiac. The event will run from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. and it is open to the public, especially seniors and their families. Every summer this event draws a good-sized crowd of local residents who are interested to learn about the services and programs that are available to assist our seniors. There will also be a variety of free health screenings and other helpful information.

We will have refreshments and an opportunity to sign up to win a door prize. I appreciate the help from our event co-sponsor, Pontiac Parks and Recreation in putting on this informative event. All are welcome to stop by. You can call my Pontiac office at (815) 844-9179 for more information.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,385,212,302 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.6 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $133 billion.

State evaluating possibility of federal assistance for flooding

All spring and summer it seems like we've been talking about the flooding that has been hitting Illinois from one end of the state to the other. Heavy spring rains led to flooding and property damage in many riverfront communities, and they also hit our local farmers hard as they tried to get their crop in the ground during planting season. The Mississippi River was above flood stage for a record number of days, and other rivers are still out of their banks. As the waters have receded, the state has begun evaluating the extent of the damage with an eye toward requesting federal help. To quality for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Illinois would have to have sustained about $19 million in eligible damages.

The state's damage assessment will help strengthen any application for federal aid. Anyone with flood damage is encouraged to report it to their county emergency manager, as the more thorough the state's damage assessment is, the more likely Illinois is to receive federal help. Woodford County was among the 36 Illinois counties which underwent active flood response and recovery activities from state government so far this year.

More information is available at

Meeting with Rep. Yednock

Last week I met with my colleague Rep. Lance Yednock of the 76th district, which borders our 106th district to the northwest. Rep. Yednock's district stretches from Streator to just past the LaSalle-Peru area and is very similar to ours in many ways. The only way we can effectively govern and get positive things done for our districts and for the state as a whole is if we are able to talk to each other and work together on a bi-partisan basis. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Rep. Yednock and talk about issues that are important to constituents in both of our districts. I hope we can have more good conversations in the future about how to tackle the many challenges our area and our state are facing.

Did You Know?

In 1899 Illinois became the first state in the nation to have a juvenile court law. It mandated that juveniles could not be incarcerated with adult criminals and that children under 12 could not be jailed at all. Supporters of the law feared for the safety of juveniles sent to adult prisons, while some other proponents argued that a separate juvenile system was needed because judges – afraid to send juveniles to adult prisons – were too lenient with juvenile offenders.