Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois and Lutheran Social Service of Illinois finalized a cooperative agreement to begin Reentry Services for Returning Citizens in East St. Louis beginning in May, 2018.

Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois is working with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois through their Lutheran Prisoner & Family Ministry to begin a reentry program that would provide a holistic, multi-faceted program that supports a returning citizen’s transition back into the community.

Reentry Services connect the returning citizen to needed supportive programs and reduces the barriers that prevent successful reintegration back into the community. All of the core components are designed to provide transitioning individuals with job knowledge and experience, a support system, and a stable life.

The Reintegration Process is based on a proven multi- step process:

  • Intake and Relationship Building

During intake sessions, an assigned Reentry Specialist completes an extensive intake with the returning citizen. Information is gathered about the returning citizen’s demographics, personal and criminal history. The Reentry Specialist takes the time to get to know the individual and their story.

  • Resource Assessment of Needs

Through a series of conversations with the returning citizen, initial areas of need, both short and long term, are developed to facilitate transition back into the community.

  • Goal Development

A service plan is developed with both short and long-term goals. The individualized plan addresses up to 21 different areas of need and helps determine which programs in-house and other community services would be most beneficial to the individual’s circumstances.

  • Returning Citizens Development Programs
    • Employment Skills School (Work Skills – 40 Day Curriculum)
    • Bicycles 2 Work (Repairing Bicycles for the Community)
    • Green Reentry Opportunities (Work in Community Gardens)
    • Ecumenical Prayer and Services
    • Restorative Justice (Focus on Offender, Victim and Community)
    • Moral Reconation Therapy (Moral Reasoning and Cognitive Behavior)

 

 

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee at the young age of 39 years. Dr. King was a non-violent, civil rights activist who championed the cause of racial equality and faith in God to overcome any obstacles.

During this memorial week, leaders from across the nation spoke out against the assassination, violence and the need for civil rights legislation. Others prayed for change. Some say, 50 years later, change has not come. Dr. King before his assassination spoke about racial equality as a goal, like the “promised land” but obtainable. Dr. King said, “I may not get there with you, but I want you to know, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Fr. Christopher Reuter recently shared his story about meeting and photographing Dr. King in the summer and fall of 1967. The first time was on a hot Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio, where I was in a summer program to learn pastoral ministry skills right after completing my studies in the Franciscan seminary. My supervisors thought that I was out visiting orphanages and nursing facilities, but I now confess that I was actually on street corners registering voters. I also volunteered my time with an ecumenical pastors’ association that was organizing a boycott of a major grocery chain that practiced racial discrimination. When Dr. King came to town for a series of outdoor speeches, I drove the flatbed truck on which his podium was mounted.

The second encounter was at a churchyard on the south side of Chicago, where I was beginning my career as a high school English teacher. It was at a rally, as I recall, preparing marchers for a demonstration to protest discriminatory “red-lining” real estate practices.

Looking back, I remember being very frightened at these events. Not only did we need to worry about being arrested, but we also had to face hostile reactions from fellow religious and Catholics – some of whom openly labeled Dr. King “a Communist agitator.”

When he was assassinated in 1968 not even a year later, it was a painful pastoral duty as a teacher at Hales Franciscan School to accompany my students during the unrest and riots that engulfed Chicago and so many other place in America. As we commemorate his death fifty years ago, I treasure the photographs of Dr. King as personal “icons” of a prophet whom I was privileged to briefly meet.

Reference: Belleville Messenger, March 22, 2018 (www.bellevillemessenger.org)

 

The second Incarceration Form on pre-sentencing and entry into the criminal justice system was held on March 20, at St. Louis University’s, II Monastero hall in St. Louis, MO. The three panelists that addressed various topics of pre-sentencing included:

  • Judge Milton Wharton, Retired, Criminal Court 12th Judicial Circuit, State of Illinois
  • Dr. Michael Mancini, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Saint Louis University School of Social Work
  • Michael Barrett, Director, Missouri State Public Defender

Each of the panelists addressed the following topics prior to table discussions:

  • What are the biggest systemic challenges that you face in your work with individuals entering the criminal justice system?
  • What do you see as the most promising and innovative solutions for reducing incarceration rates in Missouri and the Metro-East?
  • What policies and practices can be used to reduce racial disparities in arrests and sentencing severity?
  • How can reentry service providers (those on the “back end” of the criminal justice system) work with those involved in the “front end” of the system to take a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform?

The table discussions were lively as those attending voiced their own work in the criminal justice system and how they gained new insight in the various paths that led juveniles, teenagers and young adults to the prison pipeline.

Many of the discussions centered on the children’s education process in the early years and use of restorative justice practices as peace circles, teen and adult drug courts, adult redeploy, and restorative justice circles in schools.

The question of reentry services was addressed by many of those in attendance that are working in the area to provide the necessary reentry services that include housing, job training, mental health evaluations & treatment, drug and alcohol addiction, medical assistance, anger management and a host of other services both in-house and referrals to other organizations.

Save the date for the next in the series of Incarceration Forms that will be held at St. Louis University’s, II Monastero Hall on Thursday, August 2, 3 PM-5 PM, on the topic of work force development. Contact Criminal Justice Ministry, St. Louis, MO. (www.cjmstlouis.org) for more information.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Illinois and the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago are in support of the proposed Illinois Supreme Court Rule, Restorative Justice Practice and Privilege, Proposal 17-07, P.R. 0246. The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago has drafted the proposed rule to make communications during a restorative justice practice, as well as that a restorative justice practice was convened, privileged information, thus becoming inadmissible in a court or tribunal. The rule also sets out circumstances when the privilege can be waived, which are modeled after the established attorney-client privilege.

Restorative justice practices respect and promote the human dignity of those involved, as it provides support to communities who have been harmed, helps reduce recidivism, and promotes rehabilitation of those who have committed crimes or are involved in other conflicts in their communities.

It is important that these communications in restorative justice practices remain confidential, except in specific situations. For many, their participation in restorative justice requires that what they share will not be used against them in any potential future civil or criminal proceedings. The premise of restorative justice requires trust and honesty among all those involved.

Fr. David Kelly of Precious Blood Ministry within the Archdiocese of Chicago has led efforts to support Restorative Justice Hubs as a community-led approach to youth crime and conflict in various Chicago neighborhoods. Refer to additional information about the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation on the website (www.pbmr.org).

The proposed rule will help support and strengthen the use of restorative justice to the benefit of the common good, especially for those communities seeking local remedies to conflicts.

The 2010 Census counted more than 2 million incarcerated people in the wrong place.

Nothing has changed, since the Census Bureau will again count incarcerated people in the wrong place again in the 2020 Census which continues to distort democracy.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced it is leaving in place the inaccurate and outdated practice of counting incarcerated persons as “residents” of the prison location instead of their home communities. The Census Bureau will again count 2 million people in the wrong place which continues the practice that will ensure another decade of “prison gerrymandering” that unjustly awards extra political power to the regions that host prisons, perverting the principles of equal representation.

The Census Bureau is picking favorites based on economic and racial privilege: if boarding students are deemed to live at home, then the same logic should be applied to incarcerated people.

When the state and local officials use the Census Bureau’s prison count data attributing ‘residence’ to the prison location, they give extra representation to the communities that host the prison and dilute the representation of everyone else. This is harmful to rural communities that contain large prisons, because it seriously distorts redistricting at the local level of county commissions, city councils, and school boards. It also harms urban communities by not crediting them with the incarcerated population whose legal residence never changed.

Counting incarcerated people at the location of the facility reduces the accuracy of Census data about communities of color. For example, because Africa-American and Latinos are disproportionately incarcerated, counting incarcerated people in the wrong location is particularly bad for proper representation of African-American and Latinos communities.

The Prison Policy Initiative has long argued that the Census Bureau is in the best position to end prison gerrymandering nationwide, and the organization hopes that, by 2030, the Bureau’s residence rules will reflect reality. At the same time, four states have already passed legislation ending prison-based gerrymandering. New York and Maryland passed and implemented similar laws to count people in prison at home for this round of redistricting, and both states’ law were successfully defended in court. Delaware and California passed legislation that will take effect after the next Census in 2020.

The Census Bureau’s 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations as well as the public archive of many of the comment letters submitted to the Census Bureau in 2015 and 2016 on ending prison gerrymandering can be found on the Prison Policy Initiative website. The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative does research to expose the broader harm of mass incarceration, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. Refer to the 2016-2017 Annual Report (published November, 2017) that can be reviewed on their website (https://www.prisonpolicy.org).