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Fewer Felons Returning to Illinois Prisons

Chicago Defender, News Report, Kathy Chaney Posted: May 28, 2008

The number of felons walking back through the states prison doors for another stay dropped to an alltime low since 2004, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said recently. Blagojevich said the repeat cycle of crimes by formers offenders was halted by statewide reforms that translated into an estimated $64 million in prison costs savings for taxpayers.

Convictions among parolees went from 4,567 in 2004 to 3,742 in 2007an 18 percent reduction, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. The reality is that offenders who are sent to prison are most likely going to be back in our communities sooner or later. The vicious cycle of recidivism weakens communities, destroys families and puts a huge burden on the state's finances, the governor said.

To keep the numbers on a steady decline, Blagojevich tapped the assistant pastor of Apostolic Church of God to lead a task force to execute recommendations from the governors four-pronged program to help keep recidivism low. In collaboration with the Illinois Dept. of Human Services and IDC, among others, Rev. Bryon Brazier of Apostolic will work with community- based groups to help prevent crime in their areas; help ex-felons get job training; develop more intense programs for West Side residents; and help prepare inmates for reentry during the last three to six months of their sentences.

The task force will develop strategies on how to accomplish these recommendations. This state needs systemic solutions to address the challenges of recidivism. I am looking forward to helping lead the team to take the tremendous progress we have made in Illinois under Gov. Blagojevic's leadership to the next step, Brazier said. One repeat offender who had been in and out of prison five times said completing a drug treatment program at Sheridan Correctional Center saved his life. He is now a budding entrepreneur.

I grew up in Englewood, and so I know what drugs and crime have done to our communities. I am the child of both a previously incarcerated mother and father, and I have seen the cycle pass onto my own son, said Andrew Atchison, an exfelon from Sheridan Atchison was released from prison about three years ago, the longest time since he has been out of prison without going back.

The Sheridan program instills hope in you, and faith in yourself that you can do better. Today, I am a successful business owner and have started a gym to help prevent other children from making the mistakes I did, the 47-year-old said. Its testimony like Atchisons, and the historic drop in repeat convictions, that lets everyone know that teamwork is powerful, Rep. Danny Davis, D-7th, said.

When organizations and individuals collaborate to solve problems, we can indeed have a serious impact, Davis added. The governor did not detail how the strategies will be funded once theyre developed.

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