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.
Serving the areas of Alton, Godfrey, East Alton, Wood River, Roxana, Edwardsville, Jerseyville, Brighton, Bethalto, Grafton, Granite City, Hartford, Highland, Troy, Fairview Heights, Belleville and the surrounding cities.