OBK is meeting with the ESL Planning group that includes Tina Phillips (TIF/Finance) and Jacqueline Riley (liaison to Planning Committee). Twelve copies of the OBK presentation for the Planning Commission were given to Ms. Phillips for review and forwarded to Ms. Riley for distribution to the members.
OBK is scheduled to meet with the Planning Commission on October 19 and October 26 for review of the project. Members include: Chairwoman Leverne Backstrom, Vice Chairwoman Donna Bullock, Secretary William Mixon, Commissioners: Ronald Davis, Jacqueline Perkins, Lorenzo Savage, Dorothy Joshway and Joyce Williams.
The OBK presentation to the Planning Commission includes the following:
– Faith-based Agencies Serving the East St. Louis Community
– Letters of Support for a Reentry Home
– Personal Testimony from a Returning Citizen


Faith -based Agencies Serving the East St. Louis Community include:
Catholic Cemetery Association, Catholic Day Care Center, Catholic Urban Programs, EastSide Heart & Home Family Center, Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School, Southwestern Correctional Center (providing inmate programs), and Vincent Gray Academy.

Letters of Support for a Reentry Home
OBK asked various individuals and organizations to submit letters of support for establishing a returning citizens home in East St. Louis. OBK would provide the supportive housing and needed social, educational and job related skills for the returning citizens to be responsible members of the community. The response was exceptional and incuded judges, teachers, clergy, criminal justice reform advocates, senators, charitable organizations, mental health workers, senators and representatives, attorneys, social workers and law enforcement officers.
We have included some of the background information referenced in these letters of support that was discussed by the Illinois State Commission of Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform (Part 1 report of December 2015). OBK added comments about how the OBK reentry home would provide assistance to the returning citizens.

How can OBK provide assistance to reduce the recidivism rate as discussed in the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justive and Sentencing Reform based on their Part 1 report of December 2015?
(Reference: www.icjia.state.il.us.cjreform2015)

Let’s consider four questions:
(a) What is the Mission and Vision of the Illinois Department of Corrections?
(b) What is the Illinois prison recidivism rate?
(c) How effective are Illinois Prison and Reentry Programs?
(d) Who are incarcerated in our Illinois prisons?

(a) What is the Mission and Vision of the Illinois Department of Corrections?
Mission: To serve justice in Illinois and increase public safety by promoting positive change in offender behavior, operating successful reentry programs, and reducing victimization.

Vision: We will reduce recidivism by offering seamless, efficient services that are geared toward offender rehabilitation.
⦁ Gov. Bruce Rauner has explained that “we haven’t properly staffed and invested in our correction systems, and we imprison too many non-violent offenders while failing to provide them with ways to get back into society and become productive citizens.”

Our Brothers’ Keepers will provide a home environment for “returning citizens” in the East St. Louis community. They will receive needed services, including supportive housing, life and career skills, and counseling services. This will include bringing in social and human services, inter-faith communities and government agencies, to assist the men in the process of community integration. OBK will assist the IDOC on their Mission & Vision.

(b) What is the Illinois prison recidivism rate?
⦁ The Illinois prisons are not simply a place to send offenders; it is also a system that releases offenders, who then must confront the challenges of living outside the walls of the prison. In Illinois about 95% of all inmates will eventually be released and that represents about 30,000 inmates each year. A major problem is that of the 30,000 inmates released, roughly 50% will return to prison within three years of their release, either because they committed a new offense or because they violated conditions of their supervised release.

⦁ Today Illinois state prisons have 49,000 adults incarcerated in a system designed for 32,000 and this represents about 380 inmates incarcerated per 100,000 citizens at a cost of $1.4 billion/year. Gov. Rauner’s Commission was charged, “to review sentencing practices, community supervision, and the use of alternatives to incarceration, and to make recommendations for amendments to state law that will reduce the State’s current prison population by 25% by 2025. This would be a reduction of about 13,000 inmates who would be “returning citizens” in to the community. However, this could only happen if at the same time we are able to make significant reductions in the recidivism rate.

Our Brothers’ Keepers Supportive Resident House is a community-based program designed to assist returning citizens with future housing issues and concerns. It is an alternative placement method that is structured to be a less restrictive housing option. It is designed to help the individual learn new behavior patterns that will enable them to function in a society that demands accountability for their individual choices and/or actions. This will lay the groundwork to reduce recidivism as restorative justice principals become a part of their life to give back and contribute to society.

(c) How effective are Illinois Prison and Reentry Programs?
⦁ The problem that Illinois faces is not only that its prisons are crowded and overly expensive, but also that the State undermines the IDOC mission of “promoting positive change in offender behavior, operating successful reentry programs, and reducing recidivism.”
⦁ Rehabilitative programming can reduce recidivism when it addresses the needs of offenders that led them to engage in criminal activity.
⦁ This leads to two conclusions:
⦁ First that effective prison programming is essential to rehabilitation.
⦁ Second that when consistent with public safety, it is always preferable – less expensive – to provide offenders with rehabilitative programming in a community-based setting, rather than in prison.
⦁ The problem is that in 2015, only about 3% of IDOC’s total budget was dedicated to such programming. Currently there are 320 programs offered across all 28 IDOC facilities, but quality programming remains in short supply. There are many problems such as long wait times, funding is insufficient, qualified personnel are not available or hard to retain, and the physical space inside the prison is inadequate.

Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois will provide a clean, sober, and safe structured environment for the returning citizens. The OBK staff is committed to offering individual, personal assistance and services to residents. To achieve the goals the program will utilize a case manager and outreach workers to mentor and enable the resident to learn and exhibit positive behavior that will help them return to the community as more productive adults.

(d) Who are incarcerted in our Illinois prisons?
⦁ In 2014, non-Hispanic whites made up 63% of Illinois’ total population, but accounted for only 29% of the State’s prison population. However, African-Americans made up about 15 % of the State’s population but make up almost 60% of its prison inmates about 7 xs higher than non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics made up about 17% of the State’s population while only 12 percent of its prison population. In general, we could describe the typical inmate by several characteristics that include poor education (school dropout), lacks marketable skills, addicted to or abused drugs and alcohol, abused / neglected as a child, poor health issues and no spiritual life lived.

Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois will provide reintegration services that will lead to a stable life style which includes dignified housing, employment and/or a reliable income, possession of life skills, a sincere willingness to overcome addictions, and strong family and faith-based relationships. OBK recognizes that each person has a unique history, strengths, talents, abilities and challenges. Qualified social service personnel will assist each participant in the assessment and in forming a unique life plan for reentry into the community.

Personal Testimony from a Returning Citizens by John Steve
(Lutheran Social Services of Illinois – Prisoner and Family Ministry)
East St. Louis Planning Commission

Dear Commission Members,

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois Prisoner and Family Ministry had provided housing for me and others when I had nowhere else to go. Prisoner and Family Ministry gave me an affordable housing. At the time I was very grateful that they gave me a chance when others didn’t. To house someone in need who is trying to relocate is very critical so that they can restart their lives. Many doors/opportunities probably would have not opened if I had to return back to the South Side of Chicago (Back of the Yards). Not only I had the opportunity and privilege to not only be a resident but a mentor to those who were lost and or confused about what they wanted in life. I was able to form relationships and help them by guiding/leading them along with the support of Prisoner and Family Ministry. I then learned being able to share hope, strength, and experience with someone who was in the same position such as myself was not only worthwhile but intended for me. Not to only mention it gave me encouragement, inspiration and strength to keep my eye on the prize. My best experience from the housing program I took with me was knowing because of the program, people received a chance, received jobs, made the decision to start school, help others, restore relationships with love ones and most of all, with themselves!

John Steve