Reducing Repeat Offenders in Rockford

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford leaders have been talking for months about how to get felons back on the right track once they're released from prison. They even traveled to Racine, Wisconsin to look at successful programs there.

Right here in Rockford, we have one of the most successful rehabilitation programs in the state. Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christensen says it's worth discussing whether the highly praised resource intervention center, located in the old satellite jail downtown, could be expanded to help parolees.

Right now it only works with people on probation. The RIC has been around for four years and this year it will get a million dollars from Winnebago County to help thousands of former criminals get jobs, counseling, and drug rehab. Last month alone nearly 2,000 people came to the RIC center to get help. They say without it, they'd likely end up back in jail.

Says Rebecca Box, a RIC center participant, "I can't explain how much it's helped me and how much I appreciate what these programs they have to offer. I wish they had more."

Even though it offers close to 30 classes, like computer training and GED preparation, the center says it's still in desperate need of more resources and a full-time psychiatrist to help people with mental health issues. If private funding was increased and the Winnebago County Board and the State approved using the center for parolees.. Social workers at the RIC say they would be up for the challenge. In Racine, private donations from prominent businesses in the community fund most of its re-entry programs.

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