An Illinois Department of Corrections program, Summit of Hope, aims to keep former offenders out of prison for good. The statewide series of events, which included a stop at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, connects programs, services, and potential jobs with ex-offenders – or, as they are sometimes called, “returning citizens.”
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“What I tell employers is, why are you always in the want ads?” asks Lorenzo Louden, a convicted murderer who has been out of prison for about two decades. He now assists IDOC on a contractual basis while running his own business and running a Christian organization called Tower of Refuge in Springfield. “You don’t hire ex-offenders,” Louden says he tells skittish employers who would say it’s hard to find good people. “How can you put them in that category if you’ve never tried them?” A corrections spokesman says the Summit of Hope helped 16,000 people last year.