The 21st Show

Getting Books To Illinois Prisons; Virtual Medical Interpreters; Chicago’s Gang Database

Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

Chicago Books to Women in Prison. Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

On this encore edition of The 21st: New technology is bringing interpreters directly to patients to help with their medical needs. And, ProPublica Illinois reporter Mick Dumke talks to us about Chicago's problematic "gang database." But first, the state of Illinois spent less than 300 dollars on books throughout all state prisons for the entirety of 2017. What's behind this lack of funding and how is it impacting prisoners?

In Illinois, nearly half of all people who are incarcerated are behind bars again within three years. 

There are a number of solutions that researchers agree on how to prevent that. One of them is pretty simple: having better access to education in prisons. One key part of education is books. But when Lee Gaines started investigating this issue for the Illinois Newsroom, she found that the state’s department of corrections spent less than $300 in 2017 on books throughout all the Illinois prisons.

That number used to be much higher. IDOC data shows that they spent roughly $786,000 in 2002. So far, IDOC has provided no explanation for such an enormous drop in funding.

We spoke with Lee about her story. Also joining us was Megan Maurer. She’s currently assistant director of the Scenic Regional Library in Union, Missouri. But she used to work as a librarian at Robinson Correctional Center in southeastern Illinois up until last year. And we spoke with Julius Mercer. He is now a writer and public speaker who lives in Chicago. He was previously incarcerated and spoke with Lee for her story.


When you’re at the hospital in need of medical care, you just want to feel better. The last thing you want to think about is if you’ll be understood or not. 

But for millions of people in Illinois, that is often the reality. In Chicagoland alone, there were more than a million people considered limited English proficient in 2011. That’s according to The Migration Policy Institute. 

Last week we were talking about a new initiative by immigration advocates to make hospitals more welcoming to immigrants. 

An inability to communicate effectively with your doctor or care provider could lead to mistakes or a misdiagnoses. It can also discourage people from seeking the medical help they need in emergencies. Unfortunately, training and providing these interpreters to have on staff can be costly and if it’s an emergency, they may not be available at a moment's notice. 

Now, technology called Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, is bringing interpreters directly to patients through video. Medical interpreters trained in over 200 languages, including American Sign Language, video conference in to patients. 

To learn more about VRI, we were joined on the line by Rosalinda Justiniana. She’s a Patient Advocate and Language Service Coordinator for Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Also joining us on the line from Lombard was Jinhi Roskamp. Jinhi is a trilingual interpreter for a VRI company called InDemand Interpreting.


An investigation from ProPublica Illinois shows that the Chicago Police gang database, which contains information on 128,000 people and counting, is outdated and plagued with inaccuracies.

ProPublica reporter Mick Dumke has reporting out this topic and he joined us on the line to tell us more about Chicago’s gang database.

Story source: WILL