WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — We're digging deeper into a new report that tracked crime in Winnebago County over the last ten years.
A 30-page study shows crime trends in Winnebago County from 2010 through 2019. Overall, crime was down across the county that decade.
But it's important to note, that we saw a major crime spike in 2020, and that record year for violence is NOT included in this report.
But the report does show recidivism rates for the past decade.
More than half of people released from prison were re-arrested within three years.
13 News took a closer look at how the county is using a special program to get to people before they enter the prison system.
In the last decade in Winnebago County, nearly half of the people convicted of a felony were sentenced to probation rather than prison.
But that's not because the county's been soft on crime.
"I think we need to continue the trend of not sentencing non-violent offenders to the Department of Corrections," J. Hanley, Winnebago County State's Attorney, said in a phone conversation.
And the research shows the method makes a difference.
From 2014 to 2017, the data from the study shows 63 percent of people on probation supervision were not re-arrested. That means they're less likely to get re-arrested than people who are sent to prison.
As overall crime dropped between 2010 and 2019, the county's use of diversionary programs has expanded. That includes the Adult Resource Intervention Center, or RIC. It's designed for people on probation, but with a trajectory toward prison, also categorized as medium and high-risk offenders by probation officers.
"I think it is a wonderful resource for our community," Debbie Jarvis, Director of Court Services for the 17th Circuit, says.
Jarvis has worked in other communities and says Winnebago County's RIC has 19 treatment programs all under one roof.
"Through the RIC, there is drug and alcohol treatment, anger management, and job readiness programs," Jarvis explains.
But 37 percent of people on probation supervision were rearrested, although half were not for felony crimes. (See above chart) Jarvis says it's not uncommon for people to repeat the program, or find themselves in a different one.
"Sometimes you might not see that immediate result that you're hoping for, but you're planting the seed and hoping that you spurred some different thoughts," Jarvis says.
Currently, all 1,457 places in the program are taken up and all of the spots are filled with residents of Winnebago County. Also, 15 people are on the waitlist.
13 News spoke to Tommy Meeks, who teaches two 13-week classes at the RIC in a program he calls the "Wake Up Group." He focuses on improving the lives of young Black men.
"I try to get them to understand our struggle in this country [and] how it's important for them to be the best citizens that they can be and get out of crime, get out of drugs and become productive citizens," Meeks says. "Getting a job is a big part of what we try to do here."
Meeks echoes what Jarvis and Hanley say, that it's on the people to want to change, but the county has plenty of resources to help.
The programs are paid for by the Public Safety Sales Tax and through probation fees.