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Author Topic: Parolees Might Return To Prison If Agency Does Not Get State Grant  (Read 1006 times)

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Parolees might return to prison if agency does not get state grant

Published: Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 3:31 p.m. CST

Since 2005, deacon Rick Martin has helped hundreds of paroled prison inmates get on a path to normal society again, and he said most of them were not offenders again.

They get jobs and live in the ministry's apartments for 30 to 90 days while they save money. They report to parole officers, attend 12-step meetings and learn how to be self-sustaining on the outside again, Martin said.

But now, the housing program of RITAS Ministry – Restoring Inmates to America's Society – is in danger of losing the Aurora apartments where inmates live temporarily while learning to re-integrate into society. And the six men who live there might have to return to prison Dec. 15, Martin said, if they can't find other places to live.

Without a budget, the Illinois Department of Corrections cannot send its grant to the charity that supports its housing program, Martin said. And without the state's financial support, the ministry would have to end its housing program.

"The landlord has been very good to us," Martin said. "But the state does not have a budget, and he's owed about $38,000 in rent. He has not been paid since June."

Illinois did not have a budget in place by the July 1 start of the state fiscal year. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly remain deadlocked.

"Reducing recidivism is a key element of the governor’s criminal justice reforms, but unfortunately, the Democratic majority in the legislature passed a budget that was $5 billion out of balance," spokeswoman Catherine Kelly wrote in an email.

Martin was chaplain of the Kane County jail under former Sheriff Ken Ramsey.

After he became a deacon – a designation for laymen in the Roman Catholic Church who serve in worship and pastoral care – Martin and his wife, Linda, started RITAS Ministry in 1997. It helps inmates become productive citizens through counseling, referrals and supports the families of those incarcerated, including Christmas gifts to their children.

Martin said 80 percent of the charity's $300,000 budget is from a department of corrections grant, with the rest from fundraising. When prisoners are eligible for parole, they have a place to go before they are released, Martin said.

"A lot of them can't go back home because they've burned too many bridges. They don't want to go back to that neighborhood; they don't want that lifestyle anymore," Martin said. "I got one guy who says he'd rather go back to prison than return to the city of Chicago."

RITAS' housing program has served parolees from age 18 to 65, who have served two days in prison or 35 years, who have been convicted of everything from petty theft up to murder, Martin said.

Martin said the recidivism rate for released prisoners is about 65 percent, but those who go through RITAS Ministry have a recidivism rate of 10 percent to 18 percent.

"It's very sad for these people," Linda Martin said. "It's a proven program."

In an email, a spokeswoman for the department of corrections said the average annual cost to incarcerate an offender is $23,409.

Jennifer Vollen Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association of Illinois, said no matter what the support level is for RITAS Ministry, "it will cost the state less than it what it costs to incarcerate them."

"We are far better off with those working hard to reenter society successfully and to become productive tax-paying members of society, instead of being re-incarcerated," Vollen Katz said.

On the Web

Visit KCChronicle.com to view a video associated with this story.


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