As has been their routine for about the last seven years, FAITH Inc., held its monthly advisory group meeting for the Illinois Department of Corrections.
It was the 77TH such meeting for the community-based group, which takes place on the first Friday of every month at Trinity Baptist Church (1210 N. Waller).
The meetings allow for representatives of West Side outreach organizations to convene with representatives of the Sheriff’s Department, Governor’s office and Prison Review Board, among others, to discuss solutions to problems such as ex-offender recidivism and community funding.
Among those in attendance: Demetriuse Crawford, CEO of Corporate Limits NFP; Jorge Montes, chairman of the Illinois Prison Review Board and Melody Heaps, chief executive officer of TASC Inc., a community outreach organization that assists former inmates with re-entry into society.
About 50 people in all attended. FAITH Inc.’s Rev. John Crawford was unable to attend. Heaps, who were among the first speakers, did acknowledge Rev. Crawford for opening her eyes to many of the problems existing on the West Side, particularly the system dealing with ex-offenders.
“I may have gotten my Bachelor’s Degree from North Western, but I received my Master’s from Reverend Crawford on the West Side,” said Heaps. “I am troubled by the fact that inside prison, offenders receive the best possible health insurance, but when they exit they are given only a bottle or two of the drugs they need and that’s it. I don’t want to live in a society where persons can only receive adequate health care inside of prison.”
Heaps suggested that the community get more involved in petitioning funds from the government to allow more organizations such as hers to help ex-offenders attain adequate healthcare. Those diagnosed with mental illnesses are especially in need, she said. She also suggested petitioning for more pre-release planning from the prison board, where they would deal with offenders’ lives after they leave prison.
Montes acknowledged the sometimes-indifferent reception he receives at community meetings such as this when discussing the inequality in the prison system and his work to change them.
“Do you know that in this state a person at least 17 years of age convicted of first-degree murder against someone 18 and under shall be required to register as a sex offender for life?” he said. “That is outrageous. Currently I am working with the board to eradicate this law.”
Mantes also spoke about other programs for ex-offenders he’s trying to establish. One, for example, is an initiative called ‘good-conduct’ credits, which would provide incentives and rewards for inmates who clearly have put an effort into reforming their lives.
Crawford primarily spoke about his Corporate Limits Business, a company offering Business Incorporation skills to area residents, as well as keys on applying for Federal Grants to start a business.
“I’m telling you, it is not God’s will for you to be broke,” said Crawford, who’s also pastor. “God wants you to be prosperous and have enough to feed your family. However, it can only be done if you put forth the work to make it happen.”
The next FAITH Inc. meeting will take place Nov. 4. This will be the last meeting of the year. For more information about Corporate Limits call 773.258.0261.