Life Skills Reentry Center poised to give new life to inmates

Illinois is launching its first ever Life Skills Reentry Center to help inmates nearing release transition more easily to life outside of prison.

The Kewanee Life Skills Reentry Center will prepare male inmates for the world waiting for them by teaching them skills like using technology, applying for jobs and managing finances. The center was retrofitted to use the space left by a former juvenile correctional facility that closed in July.

Warden Tony Williams will oversee the center and believes it can play a powerful role in reducing the number of repeat offenders.

“We’ll be focusing on things you or I take for granted like being able to budget, utilize technology – things they may not have necessarily been exposed to due to their incarceration,” Williams said.

Nearly half of all Illinois inmates return to prison within three years of release. Illinois ranks 13 in the nation for highest cost per inmate with an average annual cost of $38,268 per inmate compared to the national average of $31,286.

The reentry center is a vital piece of the overall initiative to reform the state’s criminal justice system.

Gov. Bruce Rauner created an initiative to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025. Rauner has also signed 15 criminal justice reform bills since taking office.

Illinois was chosen by the National Criminal Justice Association Center for Justice Planning and the National Governors Association to be one of three states to join the National Criminal Justice Reform Project, which offers assistance to states implementing criminal justice reform.

Williams hopes inmates can find a new purpose and “… a vocation – not necessarily just a job, but a true career path.”

The state is looking to open another Life Skills Reentry Center for males in Murphysboro and one for female inmates at Logan Correctional Center.

–Illinois News Network

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