Rehabilitating ex-prisoners is never ever easy. It comes with so many challenges and despite
people’s best efforts recidivism rates are huge. Indeed, a report conducted
last year found that:
“Forty-three percent of those released from prison each year recidivate within three years of release and 17% will recidivate within one year of release…Taxpayers of Illinois pay one third- or $50,835 – of the cost of recidivism…for law enforcement, court costs and the costs of imposing sentences of community supervision or incarceration in county jails or state prisons.”
That’s why the recent efforts being made on the west side of Chicago using honey bees has to be welcome news! One example of the positive impact of this program is from James Jones who was released from prison earlier this year after a three-and-a-half-year service for drug selling. While he has a vision for what he wants to do ultimately (truck driving and even owning a truck company), for now he is in a halfway house training to be a bee handler.
Jones is one of many individuals hired by Sweet Beginnings – skin care
products maker (using honey) which has five bee farms in the greater Chicago
area for its company Beelove. Clearly this name is very appropriate since it shows its love by “offer[ing] full-time,
transitional jobs to previously incarcerated individuals like Jones, who need
help reintegrating into society. The new hires are trained to become beekeepers
and learn about harvesting honey, production, filling orders, packaging,
shipping and selling.”Jones reported he felt “excited” by being given a
chance. Getting a job isn’t easy when
one has had no prior experience and not even a CV.
Founded by Brenda Palms Barber in 2005 in North Lawndale, the idea behind
it was to “provide the workplace skills former inmates needed to rebuild their
lives.” Barber explained:
“The typical reaction we get when [former inmates] come to us is ‘What?,'” said Barber. “They don’t believe we are a real business until they see the products in stores. Then they realize they’re being hired by a real company and it boosts their self-esteem.”
And it’s working. Close to 500
workers have been hired and have been offered 90-day employment and training
with a $10 per hour starting wage.
What’s really impressive is the statistic that less than 4% of
workers have returned to prison since the program has started.
In related news, a new
appointment has been made at the Illinois Department of Corrections
(IDOC). Rob Jeffreys – a renowned criminal
justice expert – has been in the industry for more than 20 years having worked
at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in corrections
management. He is Chief of Staff at the
Agency, directing the Office of Human Resources (ODRC), IT and Strategic
Initiatives Bureaus; he will now become Bureau Chief of Classification and
Reception at ODRC.
This year’s Leapfrog Group list of 118 America’s Highest Quality Hospitals features 7 from Illinois. Chicago has four:
Northwestern Memorial Hospital,
University of Chicago Medical Center,
Amita Health Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center
Amita Health Resurrection Medical Center
To gain the results the following was measured: efficiency, management structure, patient safety and quality. Performances areas investigated were: infection prevention; limiting C-sections; using technology for improved care; leadership policies and practices.
Meanwhile,efforts are being made to enhance education in the state. According to a recent statement put out by JB Pritzker, a new committee has been put in place to bolster “the educational standards for every student in Illinois from kindergarten through 12th grade up through college.
The establishment of the new committee – Educational Success Transition Committee – was announced last month at the Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary School. CEO and co-Chair of Chicago Public Schools Janice Jackson said:
“We must acknowledge the fact that not every single student in every community has access to the same education. And we intend to fix that–not only in our city–but throughout the great state of Illinois.”
On September 21, 2018, make your way to the Aurora Downtown Campus. From 9.30am to 2.00pm, a marketing training seminar will be conducted by the Waubonsee Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for anyone seeking to enhance their marketing skills and network with experts in the field.
Some of the marketing leaders who will be presenting at Marketing Mania! include: Danny Schuman, Patricia Beets and Jill Salzman. Schulman wrote the book ‘The Worst Business Model in the World: A New Kind of Guide for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.’ He also established marketing consultancy firm, Twist.
Patrica Beets works as a national correspondent and business reporter. Together with her husband David, she co-founded Dell Cove Spices & More in 2010 as an online hobby which is now being run full time by David in a commercial kitchen. Jill Salzman is a serial entrepreneur and author of ‘Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs.’ She also co-hosts Breaking Down Your Business, a business podcast.
One way the schools are doing this is by offering new types of experiential education. Rather than simply offer the standard projects assigned by teachers and internships, there are now other ways students can learn.
Two years ago, local energy entrepreneur Michael Polsky gave a staggering $35 million to the University of Chicago to set up the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Through this, it is hoped that the “next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators [will be] fueled with the knowledge, skills, and experience to make a powerful social and economic impact.”
Then there is the work of Patrick Murphy who realized that students who had not learned coding “struggled to thrive in traditional computer science.” As such, three years ago he set up a 16-week coding academy giving students a real project to practice what they have learned on. He then joined local entrepreneurship and innovation center Blue1647 enabling students to meet off campus once a week to learn basic skills in simple computer language which would add website launching and app development to their skills.
Chicago is clearly on its way to giving its students the steps needed to go out into the job market.
There are many ways to help people begin a business and develop it. Here in Illinois we take a look at a few examples.
First, the Fondulac Bank is offering a free workshop on Starting a Business in Illinois. Co-sponsored by Bradley University’s Illinois Small Business Development Center and the Morton Community Bank, it is open to everyone.
One can never be too young to start the preparation needed for getting a job. Since – according to a recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – within the next two years there will be over a million unfilled tech jobs – now is the time to start prepping young kids to get qualified. As such STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) education is crucial. Particularly for girls, since they are less likely to get coding classes, but it’s also important for boys. Thankfully, such classes are cropping up a lot in the Chicago areas. One is, Code Play Learn opened by William Greenwald in 2013 because as he explains:
“Although not everyone will become a doctor or a scientist, it’s important that everyone have a basic scientific knowledge about how the human body works. I feel the same way about coding; I don’t expect everyone to become a programmer, but I do believe that it is critical that everyone gets a fundamental understanding of how technology works and how it is built.”
In addition, Coonley Elementary School students have been privy to coding lessons (from kindergarten to fifth grade!) thanks to Instructional Technology Coach Nicole Zumpano in an effort to: “expose students to coding, so that as they grow older they feel it becomes an option for them to pursue and they will already have some fundamental knowledge about it.”
There are also various community economic development programs springing up in the region such as Creating Economic Opportunities program, The Small Business Development Center and the Community and Economic Development Summits which seek to “align institutional resources with community and regional needs.” According to Joe Rives, Co-Chair of the PEI, and Vice President of the WIU Quad Cities Campus and Planning, “CED Summits are important to the state’s economy as we work to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce for the 21st century in Illinois. Our work is achieved by helping to advance community and/or regional goals expressed in existing economic development plans. [The PEI] is also working with] businesses and industries of all shapes and sizes, from an individually owned and operated company, to Forbes Fortune 100 companies.”
In conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Founding Sponsor BP and Signature Education Partner Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), the BP Student Design Competition is returning this fall.
This began in 2015 (the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial) and, like that one, aspiring artists and architects from the city’s elementary and high schools will be able to create projects challenging around this year’s theme, “Make New History.” Entrants will have to design solutions for two different Chicago-centric challenges, focusing on how our every day lives can be transformed by the built environment.
As Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained:
“The BP Student Design Competition is a unique hands-on experience for Chicago students to challenge their creative thinking and develop their passion in architecture and design. The educational partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation engages our young artists and architects by giving them the opportunity to participate in a range of opportunities in neighborhoods across the city.”
This year also new educational initiatives were proposed by the Chicago Architecture Biennial (and CAF), in an attempt to expand its reach to communities throughout the city.
When education becomes so expensive for many of those working hard to make it happen, one has to start to wonder where society is headed. Right now, Chicago seems to be encountering this. The city has approached the Chicago Board of Education to borrow $389 million just to keep schools open until the end of the school year, while making the necessary deposits into teachers’ pension funds.
This price tag seems rather large. Especially when you look at the fact that – to implement it – the Education Board itself will need to borrow against the money it owes in state grants to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) – all $467 million of it.
But then you take a look at the activities of the CPS in the tech sphere. Being America’s third largest school district in the US (with over 380,000 students) has turned it into one of the most highly reputable, at least when it comes to advanced technology. One example of this is Newton Bateman that has implemented the Google drill. Teachers and administrators at the school have been enlisted to Googlefy the classroom, promoting Google’s products, ultimately having students make regular use of Google Docs, Gmail, Chromebooks and more.
So while the city’s schools might on the one hand be in financial distress, if they continue classroom Googlification, they potentially could be well on their way to bolstering their image.