CHICAGO, Illinois - August 21, 2008 - There's a new sheriff in jail.
Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County, Illinois, walked into his own jail on Wednesday to spend a week as a prisoner, saying he was divinely inspired to learn what it was like to be confined and to sample jail programs designed to reduce recidivism.
"The biblical adage that we reap what we sow is very true in criminal justice," said Curran, 45, before exchanging his business suit for a prison jumpsuit at the Waukegan, Illinois facility near Chicago.
Illinois "has historically had one of the worst-run prison systems in the nation ... treating inmates like caged animals only to see them released back into their communities angrier and more bitter than they originally were," he said.
Curran will spend time in the general population of some 600 inmates who are awaiting trial on charges of murder, rape and lesser crimes, though at times he will have his own cell.
He will sit in on high school equivalency classes, and spend a night in the high-security unit and in the medical unit.