Illinois seeks to limit use of solitary confinement

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers are trying to restrict the use of solitary confinement at state prisons with a proposal that limits the number of days an inmate can be segregated.

The push in Illinois is part of a national movement that has policymakers rethinking a decades-old punishment that critics say has profound psychological impacts.

Legislation sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford would limit solitary confinement to no more than five consecutive days and five total days during a 150-day period. That would be a dramatic change from the current rules that allow prisons to isolate inmates for weeks or years at a time.

The bill got initial approval in a House committee Wednesday on a 6-1 vote and awaits a vote by the full chamber.


Kirk questions payments to Alexander County housing agency

(Information from: Southern Illinoisan,

CAIRO, Ill. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general to look into the nearly $20 million in federal funds given the Alexander County Housing Authority over a seven-year period.

The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports in a letter sent last week Kirk asked why the housing authority continued to receive funds despite indications the money was being misused by staff.

The Southern Illinoisan reports various HUD documents from 2014, 2015 and early 2016 detailed mounting concerns over mismanagement and neglect of core duties by housing authority staff.

Among issues cited in a September 2014 review, for example, were excess travel for unnecessary training conferences, inappropriate payments to the former executive director after his retirement, and inappropriate payments to employees in early retirement buyouts.



Southern Illinois University add major in brewing

(Information from: Southern Illinoisan,

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Southern Illinois University has a new accredited degree in fermentation science to train future brewers, distillers and vintners.

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved the new Bachelor of Science degree in March. Matt McCarroll, director of the Fermentation Science Institute at the university, says students will start the major in the summer.

McCarroll said in a news release that rapid growth in craft brewing has led to demand for fermentation scientists with scientific training and coursework focused on brewing science. He says students will be "well prepared" to get jobs.

According to McCarroll, fermentation science involves chemistry, plant biology, microbiology and agricultural sciences.



Officials: Bad accounting 'masked' district's fiscal woes

FRANKFORT, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago school district is admitting its "true financial condition" had been "masked by improper accounting."

Lincoln-Way High School District 210's school board said in a statement released late Friday the lack of a proper system of checks and balances and unauthorized actions by a previous superintendent is the fault of the board. The board's admission came with the release of a report that revealed improper accounting and management of bond proceeds from 2006 to 2012.

Voters approved a $225 million referendum in 2006 to fund two new schools and make improvements at the district's existing campuses. District officials say about $4.6 million was incorrectly expended for noncapital purposes. The district will have to borrow to replace the money.

The board has voted to close Lincoln-Way North High School this year as a cost-saving measure.


Rockford school district hoping to expand robotics clubs

(Information from: Rockford Register Star,

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — Rockford schools are hoping to start robotics clubs district-wide in an effort to teach students science, technology, engineering and math skills.

So far 15 Rockford School District schools have robotics clubs. School officials say the plan is to expand the clubs to all district schools as soon as money is available.

Chris Magee is academy coach for the school district. He tells the Rockford Register Star that an important benefit of a robotics club is that students learn skills that help prepare them for future careers.

Club members build robots from scratch or from beginner kits. They then compete against other schools to make their robots do tasks like climbing a ladder or shooting a ball through a hoop.



2 copies of Lincoln books going to every Illinois library

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Hundreds of libraries across Illinois are due to get two more books about Abraham Lincoln.

The Abraham Lincoln Association says it will donate copies of the books to all 810 public and academic libraries in Illinois. The books are "Abraham Lincoln Traveled This Way: The America Lincoln Knew" and "A Day Long to Be Remembered - Lincoln in Gettysburg." They are both by Lincoln historian Michael Burlingame.

Association president Kathryn Harris says the books are well-researched. She says now they will be a "few miles of everyone in Illinois." The group's goal is to increase knowledge of Lincoln.

The Illinois State Library's Illinois Center for the Book will distribute the copies. They should be available starting April 22.


Suburban Chicago pastor charged with sex abuse of child

ST. CHARLES, Ill. (AP) — Prosecutors say a suburban Chicago pastor has been charged with sexually abusing a child at his church in North Aurora.

The Kane County State's Attorney's Office said Saturday that 39-year-old Ralphael J. Robinson of Aurora is charged with one count of criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

They say the abuse occurred at Kingdom Church in North Aurora on Monday, and that Robinson knew the victim.

Robinson surrendered to police on Friday, after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He appeared in court Saturday morning and is being held at the Kane County jail on $100,000 bail.

It wasn't clear late Saturday whether Robinson has an attorney who could comment on the charges on his behalf.


Cubs fan says arrest on field after no-hitter 'worth it'

(Information from: Chicago Tribune,

CHICAGO (AP) — The fan who ran onto the field to celebrate Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta's no-hitter says getting arrested was "worth every penny."

Dylan Cressy tells The Chicago Tribune he handed his wallet and phone to a friend and scouted his route before the last out was called Thursday night in Cincinnati.

The 22-year-old Indiana University student then jumped over a railing, ran past an officer and began jumping up and down with Cubs players. Cressy patted Arrieta on the head before an officer dragged him away. He was charged with criminal trespass.

Cressy describes the game as "pure joy."

His father wasn't thrilled when his son called him from jail. But when Michael Cressy found out why he was arrested he was proud. He says "It took some guts."



MidAmerica Airport in Southern Illinois to get $835K upgrade

(Information from: Belleville News-Democrat,

MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) — A Southern Illinois airport is getting a nearly $1 million upgrade.

The Belleville News-Democrat reports officials in St. Clair County have hired an engineering company to design improvements to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah.

The project will cost about $835,000. A Federal Aviation Administration grant will cover up to 90 percent of that amount. The county will provide 10 percent.

The upgrade will include a new main entry door, modernization of the public address system, new lighting and safety improvements to the passenger loading bridge.

The work could begin later this year, and the terminal will remain open during the four months the project is expected to take to complete.

The terminal opened in 1996.

About 76,000 passengers used the terminal last year.



How early is too early for word that tornadoes may come?

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Meteorologists are finding that it's easier to forecast stormy weather than it is to predict what goes on in the human mind.

As the nation's midsection braces itself for possible tornadoes Tuesday, researchers have yet to determine when to raise a general alarm. With too much notice, people might try to flee in their cars, putting them at greater risk.

For now, the Storm Prediction Center is reminding people in general that it's late April and tornado season is upon us. Forecasters suggest cleaning out the storm shelter and buying a weather radio — but get some gas for the chain saw just in case.

The center is telling emergency officials a severe weather outbreak is possible across Oklahoma on Tuesday, with storms also from Dallas to Wichita, Kansas.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.