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Neighborhoods and Incarceration

Most of the men and women leaving Cook County Jail have one thing in common: 80 percent are released to seven neighborhoods in Chicago, according to youth justice advocates who spoke in a panel discussion on April 18.  IMG_3383-400x300

“Eighty percent, that’s roughly 12,000 inmates, released from the Department of Corrections return to the same seven neighborhoods in Chicago,” said Anthony Lowery, director of policy and advocacy for the Safer Foundation.

Lowery and a panel of experts on crime, violence, incarceration and youth met at Columbia College Chicago to discuss the issues with media. The program was sponsored by the Community Media Workshop.

Lowery works with men and women who have a difficult time restarting their lives after being incarcerated.

“About 25,000 people are released from Illinois Department of Corrections; 15,000 of these individuals return to Chicago,” he said.

The seven neighborhoods that most of the inmates return to are: Austin, North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Englewood, Humboldt Park, Roseland and Auburn Gresham, according to the Urban Institute report on Chicago community and prisoner re-entry.

The report also pointed out that these communities share several economic and demographic characteristics. All seven have above-average rates of women-headed households, and most have below-average high school graduation rates and above-average poverty rates.

Some organizations are trying to combat these outcomes and offer an alternative to crime.

“I think that mental health is a huge factor, and I think a lot of the mental health issues stem from other systemic issues,” said Alyssa Petersel, program assistant for Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY), a program run by Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

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