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Behind the Green Scene 

SPRINGFIELD – August 1, 2013 - The Illinois State Fair offers something for everyone, literally! Children have an opportunity to experience exciting rides, cotton candy and magic shows. On the extreme other end of the spectrum, inmates at Logan Correctional Center have an opportunity for jobs in recycling.

The Illinois State Fair, in partnership with Illinois Correctional Industries (ICI), has created a comprehensive recycling program for the 2013 State Fair. ICI has provided the Fairgrounds with 110 trash/recycling containers which were fabricated by inmate workers out of recycled 55-gallon plastic drums. In addition, five semi-trailers will be strategically placed throughout the fairgrounds. These trailers will collect all of the aluminum cans, plastic, paper, and cardboard that the State Fair generates.

Every pound of the recycled material will then be transported to Logan Correctional Center, where the inmates who work for Illinois Correctional Industries will categorize, sort and bale it. Proceeds from the sale of the baled aluminum cans will be sent to the Combined Veteran’s Association. Other recycling efforts will include the collection and recycling of waste vegetable oil and the use of the manure in the prison gardens. Amy Bliefnick, manager of the Illinois State Fair, stated, “The partnership with Illinois Correctional Industries has been instrumental in working towards the State’s goal of becoming the nation’s most sustainable fair.”

Jen Aholt, CEO of Illinois Correctional Industries, said, “I believe that whenever you can implement a recycling program that reduces the amount of waste introduced to landfill, thus minimizing landfill dumping fees, and provide inmates with prison jobs, you create a winning trifecta of sound public policy. We’re happy to say this is just one of many success stories and we thank the Illinois State Fair and all our partners.”

Illinois Correctional Industries is a division of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) which provides inmates with job skills and training to increase opportunities for employment and successful reentry into our communities upon release. ICI currently has programs operating in 18 facilities; those programs produce products and provide services. Goods include food, milk and juice, clothing, office furniture, eyeglasses, mattresses and pillows, just to name a few. ICI is a self-sustaining program; revenue generated from the sale of its products fully funds its entire operation.

Among the services provided by Illinois Correctional Industries is Helping Paws, which offers (at no charge) mobility-trained service dogs to people with special needs. Through a partnership with the MidAmerica Service Dogs’ Foundation, ICI inmates train dogs rescued from local pounds, to provide independent living for the future owners. At the same time, inmates gain confidence and a sense of purpose to carry with them after prison.

Illinois taxpayers benefit tremendously from the use ICI goods by the Department of Corrections and other state agencies. All inmate clothing is manufactured by ICI and more than half the food consumed by inmates and staff is processed, packaged and shipped by ICI. In fact, even the boxes used in shipping are not purchased; they are made by ICI inmates. Importantly, Illinois Correctional Industries inmates are trained and supervised by IDOC staff, including vocational instructors and correctional officers. The cost of instructors, superintendents, supervisors, account technicians and others is paid by ICI, in keeping with its legislative mandates of self-sustainment and helping inmates successfully reenter society.

State Fair Recycling Statistics

  • ICI will participate in the recycling of over 30 tons of cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminum and cooking oil. Some manure will go to the prison gardens.
  • In 2012 the State Fair recycled 2,800 lbs. of aluminum, 15,276 lbs. of cooking oil and 17.2 tons of cardboard, paper and bottles made of glass and plastic.
  • Over 40 inmates will be working to process the recyclables from both Illinois State Fairs.