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ELITE Re-Entry Program graduates 5th class

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Denise Molina-Weiger
/
Peoria Public Radio

A program that aims to help ex-offenders get jobs and stay out of prison graduated its fifth class Thursday. 14 people successfully got through the summer session of the ELITE Re-Entry program. The graduation ceremony took place at the Federal Court House with a speech from Judge Joe Billy McDade, a certificate presentation and music.

The men and women ranging in age from 23 to 64 had to go through 14 weeks of class assignments, job training, and community service. Carl Cannon is the Director of the Program. He says one of the reasons ex-felons return to prison is their inability to find jobs. 

“At the end of the day, those who are incarcerated are going to re-join us in society, so if we don’t get them to approach society differently then we’re going to get the same results. Which is why our country has a recidivism rate of 70% and that’s not acceptable.”

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Credit Denise Molina-Weiger / Peoria Public Radio
/
Peoria Public Radio
Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade hands 43-year old Matthew Petrakis his certificate for graduating from the ELITE Re-Entry program.

Cannon says the program partners with employers in the Peoria area to help graduates of the re-entry program find jobs. 43-year old Matthew Petrakissays he couldn’t find employment after spending 22 years in prison for armed robbery and other offenses.

“This program was an opportunity to get gainful employment by employers that already know my past…that are giving me a shot because of what I’ve shown throughout the course of working with ELITE.”

About 40 people were initially part of the summer class. 52 have graduated from the program since its inception. One person has returned to prison.