Program Helps Inmates Re-enter Society

Program Helps Inmates Re-enter Society
By: Arnold Wyrick

CHESTER, Ill. - When it comes time for an inmate to make the transition from behind bars to living back on the street, it isn't always easy.  With the number of prisoners returning to prison on the rise in Illinois, the Department of Corrections came up with a re-entry program.
It's designed to give the soon-to-be released inmates the foundation they need to stay out of trouble.
"All of these inmates are going to be going home at some point and time.  They're going to be our neighbors.  And we realize we have to give them the tools with which to get out there and be successful," said Menard Correctional Center's Warden Donald Hulick.
For inmate Brian Purcell it means keeping away from drugs and the social circle he used to surround himself with.

"I've got to leave all my old friends behind, so I won't have any.  Obviously, I didn't have any to begin with if I made it here," Purcell said.  "I've got a lot of demons to deal with."

And with the help of volunteers from throughout the state's employment services, parolee officers and even pastors, prison leaders are hopeful they'll be able to give their inmates a new outlook on living outside prison walls.
"My fear is people giving us a chance.  If you give me a chance for a job, that means I don't have to be out on the corner selling drugs.  That means I don't have to be somewhere else doing something wrong," said David Johnson a Menard Correctional Center inmate.
For Johnson, the new program is the one thing he says he didn't have the last time he was released from prison.
"I was released in May of 2006 and they didn't have this back then.  That's why I failed.  I didn't have any help out there.  So what they're doing I think is very, very helpful," he said.
This is the first time inmates at the Menard Correctional Center have been able to take part in the Re-Entry Program.  But, it won't be their last, Warden Hulick plans to run it at least twice a year.
"It's going to help them get away from the bad influences and that's hard to do.  Because often the people that were the bad influence all live near their families, near their support system.  So this teaches them that they do have other choices when it comes to returning to prison, or not," Hulick said.