Vasquez’s life in prison: work as assistant plumber, visits from children
By Matt Hanley email@example.com June 11, 2012 5:14PM
Lincoln Correctional Center
Opened: September 1984
Operational Capacity: 1,018*
Medium Security Female
Current Population: 1,007*
Average Age: 35
FY2010 Average Annual Cost Per Inmate: $22,571
*As of 11/30/2011.
Reflects bed space capacity analysis as outlined in the January 1, 2012 Quarterly Report to the Legislature.
Source: Illinois Department of Corrections.
Updated: August 28, 2012 2:58PM
Last week, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld a challenge to Sandra Vasquez’s 15-year prison sentence for her role in a drunken driving crash that killed five Oswego teenagers five years ago. Since the appellate defender’s office decided not to appeal to the state Supreme Court, Vasquez will spend the next 11 years in prison.
Vasquez is serving time at the Lincoln Correctional Center, a women’s prison about three hours south of Aurora.
So what will the next decade be like for her if she stays in Lincoln?
Lincoln is one of three prisons in Illinois that holds women. (The state also runs the Fox Valley Adult Transition Center in Aurora, which helps women move from prison back to the workplace. The governor has proposed closing the facility.) Vasquez is one of about 1,000 prisoners in the medium-security facility that can hold 1,018 people, according to an April report to the General Assembly.
Vasquez, 29, has two children who were 4- and 8-years-old at the time of her sentencing in 2010. According to testimony at her sentencing, both children asked for their mother every day, and the youngest marked a calendar every day waiting for her return.
The children will be able to visit their mother in Lincoln between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays, weekends and holidays. Weekday visits are limited to five hours.
According to Department of Correction Spokesman Stacey Solano, when children come to visit their parents, they meet indoors in supervised areas. The children are allowed to interact with their parents, including hugging and playing games.
For the last decade, the prison system has a run a “Mom and Me” program. The children spend the nights in a campground in Bloomington, about 20 miles from Lincoln, where they participate in traditional summer camp activities like hiking and swimming. Then, on some days they are bused into the prison to make crafts, play games and have extended time with their mother.
The prison has 14 buildings on 25 acres. The women sleep in large rooms filled with 20 bunk beds, Solano said.
Daily life is routine. Solano would not give too many specifics due to security reasons, but said prisoners have three meals a day and can earn outdoor time.
According to a 2010 report by the John Howard Association — a group that monitors prison conditions in Illinois — about 65 percent of the Lincoln population is involved in educational, vocational or rehabilitative classes
Vasquez is a high school graduate who was working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home before the crash. Defense attorney Kathleen Colton said that Vasquez has found work in the prison as an assistant plumber, which gives her a chance to work outside from time to time.
The prison offers career training in construction, custodial, sewing and technology fields. Lincoln has also had significant success with its nail technician program. Of the 110 inmates that had taken the state licensing test, only one had failed, according to the John Howard report. Inmates can also get jobs in the prison, some that pay as little as $15 a month.
Besides the career and educational training, the prison offers cake decorating classes, legal aid, religious services and a book club as well as anger and stress management seminars.
Vasquez was sentenced to 15 years for aggravated drunken driving and 5 years for reckless homicide. Both sentences will be served at the same time. She is required to served at least 85 percent of her sentence — meaning she could be released in March 2023.