Look inside Kewanee Life Skills Reentry Center

The goal is to teach offenders skills to help them not return once released

KEWANEE, Ill. - Kewanee's New Life Skills Reentry Center comes with the hope of lowering the prison population in Illinois.

Governor Bruce Rauner got a look at the facility Tuesday that used to be a juvenile detention center.

The goal is to teach inmates skills that will keep them out of prison after they return to society.

"The interaction with the staff… They really care," said Stewart.

Sammy Stewart is from East Moline and says this is his third time in prison.

Stewart hopes the the Kewanee Life Skills Reentry Center will be his last stay in the system once he's released in December of 2018.

"They want to help, and that's a lot different from any other facility I've ever been," said Stewart.

Sammy says he hopes this facility not only helps him better himself, but build a relationship with his son.

"They have parenting classes here also, Inside Out Dads. It helps give me the skills I need because I haven't been a father to my son for eight years. He's nine years old, so those are skills that I'm grateful that this place offers," said Stewart.

Offenders have to apply to come to this center, and show that they really want to change once they're released.

One of the requirements is having less than five years left on their sentence.

Warden Anthony Williams says they're learning life skills like how to use a computer and approach an interview.

"They really work on those soft skills, otherwise they're culture shocked whenever they go outside because the world's changed, it's fundamentally different than it was ten years ago, let alone 20, 30 years ago," said Williams.

State leaders say Illinois has one of the worst recidivism rates in the country.

They say the center was opened to help change that.

"It really wasn't serving the juvenile population very effectively. We can do it more efficiently and effectively in different formats. We were able to reposition this facility, and move over and transition our staff. And many of them are providing outstanding service now in this new role," said Rauner.

State leaders say they plan to open similar facilities in Logan County in Central Illinois and Murphysboro in Southern Illinois.


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