By Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday ordered a former youth prison be re-opened as a center designed to reduce recidivism in his ongoing effort to reform criminal justice.

The Republican said the closed youth center in Murphysboro will be renovated as a minimum-security prison focused on “life skills and re-entry,” where inmates nearing their release dates will receive educational, vocational and life-skills training.

“The people of Illinois believe in redemption,” he said in a news release. “We believe in second chances.”

The Illinois Youth Center at Murphysboro, which opened in 1997, has been empty since its last resident was moved in July 2012. It was one of a handful of state prison facilities closed that year by then-Gov. Pat Quinn.

Rauner also said Friday that the infamous “roundhouse” at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet will be closed. Rauner’s administration calls the center, which was built in 1922 and has a round design that creates safety concerns, one of the state’s oldest and most costly prison housing units.

State officials said it is the only remaining roundhouse in use in the U.S. It has been used in movies, including “Call Northside 777” in 1948.

The John Howard Association, a group that monitors Illinois prisons, applauded the decision, saying the prison “has been in a state of gross physical deterioration for decades.”

Rauner last year created a commission on criminal justice and sentencing reform whose goal is to reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

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