Safer Foundation's Crossroads program headed for extinction?

West Side ex-offender program slated for state funding cut this summer

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By TIFFANY CHINN

The Safer Foundation has about two month to save its adult transition center, Crossroads.

A residential program that prepares prison inmates for job placement, Crossroads has 78 days left of existence due to state budget cuts for such programs slated to take effect this summer. The program is run via a contract with the Illinois Department of Corrections, allowing inmates to have a monitored space to begin the re-entry process. Inmates are able to attain jobs through the program.

Jerry Butler, vice president of community relations for the Safer Foundation, said inmates are serving the remainder of their prison sentence in the community.

The foundation operates Crossroads and jointly operates North Lawndale Adult Transitional Center with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The center, however, will remain open.

As of July 1, programs like Crossroads will no longer receive state money. In addition, six other adult transition centers, one of which is also in Chicago, will also shut down. Crossroads is almost exclusively state-funded. The 40-year-old Safer Foundation, based in North Lawndale, has helped pioneer prisoner re-entry programs.

They strictly cater to those with felonies, offering their clients the job training they need to land a job and a space back into their communities.

"Safer has believed for as long as it's been in existence now that a sure-fire way of reducing recidivism is to have people employed making a living wage," Butler said.

Legislators are cutting Crossroads with intentions of redeploying the $7 million elsewhere. Jon Kaplan, director of marketing and communications at the Safer Foundation, however, notes that the decision by legislators may help Illinois in the short term, but will hurt in the long-term.

Cutting programs like Crossroads, according to Kaplan, would result in a layoff of 75 of the foundation's employees, as well as preventing them from helping their estimated 750 men a year.  

"They are no longer paying their taxes and making their contributions to the state and, in addition, then the state has to, in a year's time, pay out $1 million in unemployment for those 75 employees," Kaplan said.

On the other hand, Kaplan insists those 750 men per-year can greatly benefit the community and their families economically through the Crossroads program.

With 326 clients right now, the program is the largest adult transition center in Illinois and is seen as a model for other such centers around the country. This week, representatives from the foundation were scheduled to speak to lawmakers in Springfield.

Kaplan recognizes that legislators must make cuts. But after already seeing two other foundation programs eliminated because of funding cuts, Kaplan feels "enough is enough."

"We feel we've done our part," he said.

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