Former Illinois prisoners get help reintegrating

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) _ Hundreds of former Illinois prisoners have attended an event to help them reintegrate to society.

More than 700 parolees and probationers attended the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Summit of Hope event last week in East St. Louis, The Belleville News-Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/1uPwkW0). The department hosts 22 similar events statewide each year, having drawn 30,000 since 2010, officials said.

James Clinton of O’Fallon spent a year in custody and said the event offered him “monumental hope.”

“A lot of ex-offenders don’t know where to go to get help, or who will be on their side. They don’t know who to talk to who will give them some hope or direction,” Clinton said. “I got everything I need here today. I feel like I am back in society.”

More than 80 vendors were at the event to help ex-offenders do things like get a driver’s license, get insurance, have health screenings, secure housing and child care, find jobs and register to vote. Barbers were available to give free haircuts.

Marcus King, senior community outreach specialist for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said finding a job is always ex-offenders’ top concern.

“These men and women have to be able to provide for themselves and their families,” King said. “We want to keep them from returning to prison. And, having a job is a good way to prevent it from happening.”