Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

Learning valuable skills to gain employment after re-entry for ex-offenders can help create a fulfilling life for returning prisoners.

As part of the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and a statewide program, Reentry Services for Returning Citizens helps ex-prisoners become self-reliant as well as helping improve the local community.

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois collaborates with the Illinois Department of Corrections, Habitat for Humanity and other non-profit organizations to help build housing components for low-income families utilizing prison inmates. Since 1995, over 6,000 inmates at 23 federal, state and county correctional facilities in the state of Illinois have helped build components for over 700 homes, all the while building valuable and usable employable skills.

Through this program, prisoners become competent in the construction trades field and give back to local communities.

Prisoners who are recently released from prison apply to Scholarship Trades Program providing on-the-job training with organizations such as the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. For the ex-prisoners who receive the scholarships, they are committed to working 60-90 days at the host site. This is a wonderful way for them to have a sense of giving back to the community, while learning valuable skills which could lead to full-time gainful employment.

Other services offered by the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois are Employment Skills Schools which is a 23 day computer-based program. This program was developed in conjunction with the Southern Illinois University Work Force Development. The student/teacher ratio is 1:3 and covers all aspects of employment training, including resume writing and interviewing skills.

An innovative program is the Green Reentry Opportunities. In this program, ex-offenders work closely with churches and community organizations to build, plant and maintain a community garden. The produce goes to help feed families at local food programs.

And also, the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois woks with churches to help returning citizens in a program called Partners in Compassion. This program provides hygiene kits, clothes, meeting space and individual support. This also applies to helping loved ones who are incarcerated.

The Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is a faith-based organization that is striving to help build good community rapport with ex-offenders and are helping to create meaningful lives for them. Success stories abound on how important supportive re-entry organizations are in helping to reduce recidivism. The Lutheran Social Services of Illinois certainly helps to provide these success stories.