Community forum targets local ex-offenders

A free, community forum this weekend will address some critical issues ex-offenders face when dealing with the criminal justice system. “We hope this forum will be able to answer some of the lingering questions families within our community often ha

A free, community forum this weekend will address some critical issues ex-offenders face when dealing with the criminal justice system.

“We hope this forum will be able to answer some of the lingering questions families within our community often have when a loved one goes through the criminal justice system,” said Evangelist Leonardo Gilbert, minister at Sheldon Heights Church of Christ, which is hosting the forum.

Gilbert hopes the forum helps many ex-offenders and family members who live in the church’s 60628 ZIP code, which includes the Roseland, Pullman and West Pullman communities. The forum is from noon-4 p.m. July 19 at Sheldon Heights church, 11325 S. Halsted St. Adult and juvenile ex-offenders are encouraged to attend.

Gilbert said that a panel of representatives from the criminal justice system, social service organizations and community groups will answer questions and discuss the various challenges ex-offenders face, as well as the experiences people face going through the justice system as a victim or suspect.

“I have heard so much about what ex-offenders go through and the after effect that falls on their families,” said Carol Burns, 49, who lives in the Pullman community.

“Thankfully, none of my kids or immediate family members has had any brushes with the law. But at least I will know what to expect if that should ever change.”

In the Roseland community, resident Deon Green, 38, said he sees young, Black males stopped by Chicago police all the time.

“I know they should be doing something other than standing on the corner in their white T-shirts, but they still have rights,” Burns said.

“It is my belief that the Chicago police target these young men because they know they do not fully understand their rights. I bet the Chicago police do not pull this stuff in the Beverly community out South or the Lincoln Park community out North where a lot of whites reside.”

Monique Bond, news affairs director for the Chicago Police Department, was unavailable for comment. Burns added that because he is a young, Black man that the police could some day stop him too, so he wants to be prepared.

“I just want to know what should I do if I find myself in this situation. A lot of times our Black men go ‘down the river’ not because of what they did but because of what they do not know.”

And one ex-offender who lives in the West Pullman community said he plans to attend to make sure the community is properly informed.

“There’s a lot of false information put out about the criminal justice system, like being arrested will not generate a rap sheet or, after completing probation, your record will automatically be expunged,” said Anthony Parker, 37, who served six years for armed robbery.

“People need to know the truth and what alternatives are available to exoffenders and the families they often leave behind while they are locked up.”

For more information about the forum, call Sheldon Heights at (773) 568-2929.

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