During her visit to the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton took time to address the new ID program the state is implementing as part of its Justice Opportunity Initiative.
The program provides incarcerated individuals with a state ID upon their release. Stratton explained how this benefits the individuals by easing the re-integration process into society.
“Jobs, housing, critical social and health services so much of what makes for successful re-entry after prison relies on having an ID card,” Stratton said. “A state ID is really like a passport.”
Before this new program, formerly incarcerated individuals could have difficulty obtaining their ID. Stratton says this program eliminates that barrier — allowing these individuals an easier, more direct route to applying for jobs.
“You can have a state ID already in hand that makes a huge difference in navigating life after incarceration,” Stratton said.
While this program gives formerly incarcerated persons immediate access to numerous benefits, it also could help local businesses by easing ongoing staffing shortages.
“We’re hearing from the manufacturing industry and so many industries that they are looking for people to fill these positions and they don’t have enough,” Stratton said.
In addition to the ID program, the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center trains current inmates for future careers. They take classes ranging from art to financial literacy all to help them prepare.
Walter Oswald, who is currently incarcerated at the Kewanee center, says the program gives him confidence not just in his own potential, but also for that of others.
“It gives me hope that this program is being expanded to other prisons and more people can experience what I’m experiencing as well,” Oswald said.