After serving time in a correctional facility in Illinois, freedom is a relief. But it can also be a challenge. Former inmates know this newly-found freedom is not something that one embraces straight away. There are social, financial, and mental obstacles to overcome to join mainstream society. And many individuals struggle with attaining the ever-increasing and complex standard of living a crime-free life.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, correctional facilities released nearly 577,000 people from incarceration in 2019. Illinois accounted for 3.6% of these figures, releasing about 22,000 inmates from custody. However, the Illinois Department of Corrections also reported a recidivism rate of about 41% within three years. To put it into perspective, about four of every ten persons get re-arrested and jailed within three years of release.
How can a person with a criminal record in Illinois get the much-needed help to stay out of jail? There is no straight answer. One cannot just suggest that they stay off the streets or become recluse. But avoiding former criminal associates or the environment is the recommended first step to take.
Likewise, former inmates can look for reentry organizations near them. Reentry organizations in Illinois help persons with criminal records ease back into society after release. The goal is to help former inmates avoid crime and re-arrest through access to gainful employment, safe housing, and access to affordable healthcare. You can find a list of reentry organizations on the Illinois Legal Aid resource page.
After release, former inmates typically have difficulties in getting affordable housing. This difficulty is because most landlords perform criminal background checks and are reluctant to take persons with a criminal record as tenants. Reentry Illinois is an organization that helps former inmates find affordable housing and immediate shelter.
Only a few former inmates can continue to pay rent for the first couple of months after release, even with affordable housing. To bridge this barrier, the Illinois Department of Employment Security assists former inmates to gain employment after conviction. On the page, check out the “Useful Links” section. There, you will find a list of local, state, and federal programs for getting legal, educational, housing, and healthcare assistance.
Non-profit organizations that offer similar services include Safer Foundation and the City of Chicago Ex-Offenders Program. These organizations also provide resources for getting affordable healthcare and continuing education.
The first few months – and even years – after release is the most challenging for former inmates. With these services, you can get the assistance you need to become a productive and comfortable resident of Illinois. Volunteering with local re-entry programs is also a way to give back to your community, build trust, and help reduce recidivism.