This article was originally published by City Bureau, a nonprofit civic media organization based on the South Side.
For formerly incarcerated residents, accessing resources is vital to surviving when reintegrating back into society. Most face challenges when applying for jobs due to the stigmatizing effects of their criminal record. We’ve compiled a list that includes employment programs and legal aid resources to help those making a transition from incarceration to community.
Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children, Restore Justice—This program connects families who have loved ones who are incarcerated. Monthly meetings allow people to serve as a sounding board on different topics including current legislative changes, litigation, and personal stories. Email [email protected] for more information.
The Reclamation Project, The Women’s Justice Institute—The Reclamation Project is a women-led initiative that supports women whose lives have been impacted by the criminal justice system. The center offers a variety of programming including peer-led programs, community healing events, and advocacy training. Formerly incarcerated women and gender-expansive people are welcome to attend biweekly meetings that alternate between in-person and virtual settings. For more information, email [email protected] or program director Colette Payne at [email protected]. You can also fill out this request form at bit.ly/ReclaimRequest if you need support or referrals to other services.
Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot, Cook County Government—This guaranteed income program will provide monthly $500 stipends with no strings attached for two years to 3,250 Cook County residents. The program does not exclude people with criminal convictions and there is an optional survey that includes questions about past criminal convictions that will be anonymized for research purposes. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, a resident of Cook County, experiencing financial hardship, and not participating in another guaranteed income program. Applications will open this fall. For more information, visit engagecookcounty.com/promise.
The Chicago Future Fund, Equity and Transformation (EAT)—The Chicago Future Fund is a guaranteed income pilot program that provides $500 in monthly cash for 18 months to formerly incarcerated people. EAT plans to expand the program to 100 additional people this fall. Applications are expected to be released in the fall to formerly incarcerated residents of West Garfield Park, Austin, and Englewood. Information will be available on EAT’s website. Email Rachel Pyon at [email protected] if you have any questions or need help with the application.
Emergency Fund, Love & Protect—This fund (loveprotect.org) offers $200 in financial support to formerly incarcerated people of color who identify as women, trans men, and gender nonconforming people. The fund is only for people who have experienced domestic and interpersonal violence and who were prosecuted for self-defense. For immediate cash assistance, contact [email protected] or [email protected] to receive the application form.
Employment and Training
Training to Work Program, Safer Foundation—This workforce development program (saferfoundation.org/training-to-work-program) is open to everyone, including people on electronic monitoring or those who have been incarcerated. The program offers job-readiness training and employment services. To join the program, call Cynthia Fulks at 312-913-5436 to schedule an appointment, or the main office at 312-922-2200 for more information.
Community Re-Entry Center, Westside Health Authority—This center specializes in helping individuals charged with or convicted of a felony. Services include job placement and job readiness training. Veterans, those with special needs, and people who are experiencing homelessness can register for this free program. To register in person, visit the center’s location Monday to Friday at either 9 AM or 11:30 AM. You must bring an ID and Social Security card. If you don’t have an ID, contact 773-786-0226.
Community Economic Development, Breakthrough Urban Ministries—This program helps formerly incarcerated people in East Garfield Park access housing, employment, and help with launching a small business. Those 18 and older can join the program. If interested, contact Wilonda Cannon at 773-346-1745, or send her an email at [email protected].
RiseKit—This business partnered with the city to create a resource hub (risekit.co/dfss) for job seekers. It also collaborates with Teamwork Englewood to give formerly incarcerated residents access to jobs, training, and entrepreneurship opportunities. To look for job opportunities, sign up here for free.
Crime Records Program, Cabrini Green Legal Aid—This program helps people remove criminal records through expungement, petitions, and waivers. For those seeking employment, the legal center partners with job agencies and community-based organizations to help people find jobs. Other resources offered include virtual and in-person Know Your Rights presentations. To apply for expungement and criminal defense services, visit cgla.net/get-legal-help. Call 312-738-2452 if you need legal help, assistance with the application, or help finding a job.
Prisoners’ Rights Program, Uptown People’s Law Center—The Uptown People’s Law Center represents people who are released from prison, people who are disabled, and those applying for Social Security disability benefits. They also represent people who have been denied housing because of their criminal records. For additional information about their services, go to uplcchicago.org/what-we-do/prison or call 773-769-1411.
Community Re-Entry Support Centers, Department of Family and Support Services—These centers offer reentry services that include housing support, food assistance, and record expungement. To connect with a counselor, or to schedule an appointment at one of the centers, contact 773-664-0612 at the Westside Health Authority, or call 773-488-6607 at Teamwork Englewood.
Green ReEntry, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)—High-risk youth and those returning from prison are offered transitional housing, education, and construction opportunities through a 12-month program where they will learn electrical and carpentry. Returning adults and youth (ages 18 to 25) can apply for housing (18-month stay). For the housing application, click here. To apply for the Green ReEntry Program, visit bit.ly/GreenReentry.
Re-Entry Services, Target Area—This program offers an in-person community advisory council that provides community support and resources every Wednesday at 1 PM, as well as prison reform workshops. IDs are not required when requesting services. Call 773-651-6470 or email [email protected].
Reentry Support, Coalition to Decarcerate IL—A variety of reentry resources are listed on the organization’s website, including workforce development, expungement, and housing assistance. For help with expungement and criminal record assistance, email [email protected]. Contact the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation to learn more about their Workforce Development Program at 773-952-6643.
Illinois Reentry Services, Education Justice Project—The group provides a list of more than 1,000 reentry resources in Illinois. Services include employment support, housing, health resources, and legal assistance. To view the complete list, visit their website at reentryillinois.net/resources.
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