State budget lockdown causing post-prison program layoffs - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

State budget lockdown causing post-prison program layoffs

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois will lay off 750 employees state wide, close some offices and end some programs. (Source: KFVS) Lutheran Social Services of Illinois will lay off 750 employees state wide, close some offices and end some programs. (Source: KFVS)
A Lutheran Social Services of Illinois spokeswoman said some programs, like foster care and disability services, have court mandates that force the state to pay. (Source: KFVS) A Lutheran Social Services of Illinois spokeswoman said some programs, like foster care and disability services, have court mandates that force the state to pay. (Source: KFVS)
MARION, IL (KFVS) -

Illinois is losing more social services due to the state budget impasse.

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois will lay off 750 employees state wide, close some offices and end some programs.

An LSSI spokeswoman tells Heartland News some programs, like foster care and disability services, have court mandates that force the state to pay.

However, without a budget other programs like LSSI’s Prisoner and Family Ministry in Marion that helps reintegrate felons into society haven’t seen a dime. According to program coordinators, that’s making it harder to help those who really don’t get help anywhere else.

"This office will remain open,” said program executive director Michael Davis. We will keep a skeleton crew here and how we're going to do all of that we're trying to figure that out...We have to stick around, because frankly, who else is going to do it?”           

Even fully staffed, the job Davis and his employees do isn’t an easy one.

“Most of them will not find a job because the employer will say ‘you have a record.’ Housing is very hard to find because they have a record,” said Davis referring to his clientele. “So when they come out of prison – we are their first stop.”   

LSSI’S Prisoner and Family Ministry helps the formerly incarcerated return to the outside world. The agency helps them find housing, build career skills and hopefully, help people like Lisa Bryant find a job.

"I have a murder charge on my record and it's only what people see on paper,” said Bryant. “They don’t know the whole story."

Bryant was charged and tried alongside her husband, John Bryant, for the 2006 murder of a Southern Illinois University student.

"I didn't do it,” said Bryant. “I am not completely innocent because I knew something happened. I just didn’t know what. At the same time I got the same charge that they did.”

In 2011, her charges were amended to a lesser crime and Bryant was given a shorter prison sentence. When she got out, she said she couldn’t find a job and resorted to selling illegal prescription drugs. Soon, she found herself in trouble with the law again.

Now, she said her faith and LSSI are helping her straighten her life out.

“My spirit is lifted and my life has changed in the right direction,” said Bryant. “I hear the funding may be cut, and that’s heart wrenching. I need this. A lot of other people need this to be a productive member or society. That's what I want more than anything."

"It makes good fiscal sense that we try to put these individuals back into the work force,” said Davis.

According to the most recent annual fiscal report posted on the Illinois Department of Corrections’ website the average cost of housing a single prisoner was more than $22,655 in 2014. Also in 2014, IDOC reported there were 48,921 people incarcerated in Illinois prisons.

Davis said his workers help keep that number from going up even higher.

“We cannot afford to build more prisons. It’s not economically feasible,” said Davis. “They've done wrong. They've served their time. They need a second chance. Amazingly when they are given that second chance, they take advantage."

However with just a fraction of the people left at LSSI’s Prisoner and Family Ministry to help, second chances may soon be even harder to come by.

"I'm hoping, praying that it'll be here so I can be led in other directions by them,” said Bryant. “I need this. A lot of other people need this. It’s critical."

Davis said that even if the state passed a budget tomorrow it is unclear if LSSI’s prisoner program could get back to normal. He said LSSI has operated for so long with no state funding coming in that it could take the organization a long time to bounce back.

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