In 2007 the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI) began to bring together the individuals responsible for Prison Ministry in the six diocese of Illinois, namely, Diocese of Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, Joliet, Springfield and Belleville. This discussion led to the formation in 2008 of the Illinois Catholic Criminal Justice Network which embraces all Church members and agencies whose ministries are related to all aspects of incarceration and returning citizens back into the community.
Governor Rauner issued an Executive Order on February 11, 2015, creating a 28 member Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. The goal of the Commission is to study the criminal justice system and make recommendation for amending state laws, policies, and procedures to help reduce the State's prison population by 25% by the year 2025, while maintaining public safety. As of February 28, 2015 the prison population as reported by the IDOC was 47,952 and does not include inmates in county and local jails or juveniles. A 25% reduction in prison population would be equal to about 16,000 inmates being released and is predicated on a reduction in recidivism at the same time.
OBK has been steadly moving forward since it's inception in October 2013 when it met with prison ministers, social service providers and volunteers to form a planning committee to establish a reenty home for returning citizens. In 2014 the OBK Board of Directors was established and an Advisory Board named to provide further expertise in the areas of prison ministry, social services and ecumenical faith based services.
The next major milestone was the incorporation on August 25, 2014 of Our Brother's Keepers of Southern Illinois in the State of Illinois under the General Not For Profit Corporation Act. During the next months the focus was on preparing the documents for IRS submission as a "not-for-profit" corporation.
Fr. Christian Reuter, Prison Ministry Coordinator of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville and a representative of the Catholic Conference of Illinois spoke to the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform on May 14, 2015 in Springfield, IL. The theme was on why our church and faith communities are very interested in matters of criminal justice. Prison ministry not only attends to the spiritual needs of prisoners through chaplaincies, but we are also committed to the pastoral care of all families and communities impacted by incarceration.
I would suggest, that departments of "correction" achieve their goals better when the faith dimension is integral and indispensable in their vision and programming. In short, we both need each other to succeed. I would like to make the following suggestions: