SPRINGFIELD – Leonardo White got out of prison about four months ago after spending time in prison for domestic battery and before that served part of a 20-year sentence for second-degree murder in 2002.
On Tuesday, the 30-year-old parolee from Springfield was among hundreds of ex-offenders who attended a "one-stop" expo hosted by the Illinois Department of Corrections on the state fairgrounds in Springfield. One of many held each year, the "Summit of Hope" event was aimed at helping former inmates from central Illinois adjust to life outside prison. Currently, almost half of all inmates released from state prison end up back behind bars again, though authorities say the recidivism rate has decreased in recent years.
"Anything is better than what I started with. They were telling me about college classes I could start up with, construction things, things that could get me back into society," White said.
The event had vendors who helped parolees with tasks such as obtaining a driver's license, applying for jobs, setting up bank accounts or getting a haircut.
Marcus King, who is the state prison system's outreach administrator, said that about 16,000 of the approximately 27,000 parolees in the state attended numerous similar events statewide last year.
"A lot of people, when they look at the program, they hear of something for ex-offenders and they think job fair. It's not a job fair. It's a resource fair, because what an ex-offender needs is stratified across the board," King said.