The 21st Show

College Behind Bars Documentary; Investigation Into Isolation Rooms; IL Drivers Caught Going 100 MPH or Faster


Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) students conjugate Spanish verbs at Eastern New York Correctional Facility. Skiff Mountain Films

A new PBS documentary examines what higher education looks like in a New York State prison and how it affects the people who are incarcerated. And, an investigation from ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune found students across the state were being locked away, alone, in so-called quiet rooms... in some cases for hours and often for reasons that violated the law. Plus, so far this year, the Illinois State Police says troopers across the state have issued several thousand tickets to drivers for going 100 miles per hour or faster on Illinois roadways. 

College Behind Bars Documentary

A new PBS documentary examines what higher education looks like in a New York State prison facility and how it affects those who are incarcerated.

The documentary is called “College Behind Bars” and was produced by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein. 

Illinois Public Media and Illinois Newsroom have reported extensively on the state of education in Illinois prisons and there are many parallels between what’s been reported in Illinois and what plays out in the New York state prison.

The program there is called the Bard Prison Initiative, or BPI, and is operated by Bard College. BPI enrolls more than 300 incarcerated students. They can earn associates and bachelors degrees through the program.

Illinois Public Media’s Lee Gaines spoke with Sarah Botstein, a senior producer on “College Behind Bars” and Wes Caines, a graduate of the BPI program. Caines is now the chief of staff at the Bronx Defenders, a public defender nonprofit in New York. He also advised on the film.

Investigation Into Isolation Rooms

Appalling, inexcusable and deeply saddening... those are the words state superintendent Carmen Ayala had to describe the use of isolated timeout rooms, also known as quiet rooms, in Illinois schools. 

A recent ProPublica Illinois and Chicago Tribune investigation, found that children around the state were being secluded in locked rooms with sparse, sometimes padded walls, at an alarmingly high rate.

Illinois law does allow students to be in isolation if they pose a safety threat. But reporters found school employees were putting students there as punishment, for things like ripping paper. Another first grade boy didn’t want to stop playing tag and was sent to an isolation room. 

Governor Pritzker has already issued an emergency order to stop the practice of seclusion in schools. He announced that measure November 20, just a day after the investigation was published.

Jodi Cohen is a reporter with ProPublica Illinois, and was part of the team investigating ‘quiet rooms’ in the state. 

Illinois State Representative Johnathan Carroll represents our 57th district in Northern Illinois, which includes the Chicago suburbs of Northbrook, Arlington Heights and Prospect Heights. Representative Carroll is also a certified special education teacher. Christine Igoe holds a doctorate in education and is Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at Naperville School District 203. That district actually removed isolation rooms from their schools prior to the ban. 

Illinois Drivers Caught Going 100 MPH or Faster

If you’re listening to this show while you’re driving, we hope you’re staying alert, and keeping your eyes on the road. But even if you’re doing everything right, it’s still pretty jarring to be passed on the highway by someone going over the speed limit. And it can be extremely dangerous. 

So far this year, Illinois State Police say troopers across the state have issued several THOUSAND tickets to drivers going 100 miles per hour or FASTER on Illinois roadways.

I’m joined on the line now by Trooper Mindy Carroll. She is a public information officer for the Illinois State Police.

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