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Sheriff's boot camp teams up with Land Bank

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Chicago Tribune
by Tara Kadioglu

Young men in neon yellow jumpsuits and construction hats sawed down wooden remains of a derelict two-story home in Chicago's south suburb of Phoenix, the black letters "DOC" stamped across their backs.

"We're using saws, cutting, dismantling, hammering nails," said worker Dion Jones, 29, of a typical day's work on the demolition project, which started in February and was scheduled to wrap up last week.

"It's time-consuming and it helps the time fly by," he added. "Instead of being inside the building all day, you get some fresh air."

The building Jones referred to is a Cook County detention facility at 3206 S. California Ave.

Jones and the other young men work for free for the Cook County Department of Corrections as part of a program through which select nonviolent criminal offenders serve their sentences by deconstructing abandoned buildings for struggling communities, according to Ben Breit, a spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

The program and the facility are known as the Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center, commonly called the sheriff's "boot camp" – repurposed in November 2013 from its original military-style training program.

The Phoenix project marks the first time the boot camp program is partnering with the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority, a public authority that acquires title to distressed properties in need of redevelopment, according to Russell Rydin, the land bank's executive director.


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