2 Federal Judges Work with Ex-Cons in Chicago Re-Entry Program

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Two federal judges still wear their robes when they participate in a twice-a-month group program at their Chicago courthouse that is intended to help former inmates with substance-abuse issues stay out of trouble after they are released from prison.

That is because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo and U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier want to make clear that they are still in a position to hold participants accountable, even as they sit around a conference table with personnel from the probation and federal defender’s offices, as well as a social worker and treatment counselor, reports the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.).

This is the second group to work with the two judges under the James B. Moran Second Chance Re-Entry Program. The idea is to give participants a chance to talk and offer useful feedback about the issues they face.

“I tend to be very frank and blunt,” said Castillo at a recent meeting to a man who had just missed a drug test. “You have a lot of different excuses for things that didn’t occur. … You are on the edge of some type of failure here.”

Not everyone, of course, will succeed on the outside. Last year’s group includes one member who has since been charged in a Cook County murder case, the newspaper recounts.

“There’s real desire,” says Schenkier. “But it’s hard to escape the past. Success doesn’t always come quickly or in a straight-line progression.”

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