Carpentersville Ministry to Help Ex-Convicts Adjust
Dillon, Naomi, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Naomi Dillon Daily Herald Staff Writer
Karen Swanson can imagine the apprehension and uncertainty she may encounter from others in the coming months.
Having recently had the same sentiments herself, the Sleepy Hollow resident can understand the reaction some people might have when they learn she plans on establishing a Carpentersville residence program for ex-convicts.
"Prior to my involvement, I thought how everybody thought," said Swanson, a professor at Elgin's Judson College. "That (inmates) got what they deserved and we should just lock 'em up and throw away the key."
A friend's desire for some company while she volunteered at Cook County jail changed all that.
"I never really thought about working with inmates, never really had the desire," she said. "But ever since that first time; God hooked my heart."
Described as a "Christ-centered re-entry program for recently released inmates," Life House Ministries is an extension of a similar program offered in Cook County jail and other detention facilities across the country.
"In working with these men, one of the things I discovered was how hard it was for them to maintain their faith and moral commitment once they were released," said Swanson, who is writing her doctoral dissertation on her findings. "Part of it is they lacked the support they had while in prison, which sounds funny, but it's true."
Faced with the temptations that led them astray in the first place, many ex-convicts become convicts once more.
Swanson said U.S. Justice Department statistics place the national recidivism rate at 65 percent.
In contrast - though Swanson acknowledges the figure is far from scientific - the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry reports 18 percent of inmates who participate in their Christianity-based, life-learning program return to jail. …