MURPHYSBORO — Pride and optimism were in abundance Friday as 63 cadets graduated from training and started their careers as correctional officers in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

This pride and optimism was not just beaming from the students and their families — though there was a lot of that — but also from the line of political figures at the head of the room who helped reopen the Murphysboro Life Skills Re-entry Center, which was the host of the ceremony.

“This facility is a special place. This is unique in America,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in his opening remarks.

He implored the men and women in front of him to remember their reason for working.

Related

”Please stay dedicated to a second chance,” Rauner said. “Everyone makes a mistake in life, some mistakes are more serious than others, but when folks have served their time, giving them a second chance to redeem themselves to become productive citizens, that’s what the good Lord expects of all of us,”

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said the day was particularly special for her as she lives in Murphysboro. She and Rauner both said how hard they worked to re-open the facility.

“It was a little bit of a chore,” Bryant said of the initial push to get the project moving. She also addressed the graduates and their families.

Pam Jones, left, talks with her granddaughter, Avree Rose, four, of Greenville, Friday as they wait for Rose’s father, Zach Westfall, to graduate as cadet with the Illinois Department of Corrections in Murphysboro. ISAAC SMITH The Southern

She spoke also of the importance for the Life Skills Re-entry Center, whose mission it is to give low-level offenders skills needed to be successful citizens when they leave corrections. She said with the way the system often works — sending inmates to the bus stop with enough to make it home — all too often “we are going to see them again.”

Economics also factored into the significance of Friday. Of the graduates, 32 were on their way to working in Murphysboro, while the remainder would be working in Pinckneyville.

Mark Cravens, 24, of Herrin, said he was enthusiastic about the opportunity. He said he had some classes in criminal justice under his belt, but has since been working delivery jobs. However, he is now excited to start his career in corrections and is also excited to be able to work close to home.

A job in corrections is also good news for Brock Jackson and his wife, Ivy Jackson. The two have been married two years and have a child together.

Ivy, a stay-at-home mom, said the job at Murphysboro was a great opportunity for her family.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

In an interview after the ceremony, Rauner announced an April 16 opening date and doubled down on his enthusiasm for the facility’s mission.

Lori Brown, left, sits Friday with her two sons Joseph Brown (left) and Aydin Brown as the family waits for Joseph Brown to graduate as a corrections officer during a ceremony in Murphysboro. ISAAC SMITH The Southern

“We are going to be doing things like help offenders learn how to do interviews for jobs, how to fill in applications for jobs, learn how to open bank accounts,” Rauner said, adding that he hopes Murphysboro enjoys success like the similar Kewanee facility opened last year.

Rauner said of the 60 inmates that have come through there since it opened, none have returned.

“Everyone who leaves here will hopefully not repeat offend,” Rauner said.

Lindsey Hess, a public information officer for IDOC, said upon opening, the Murphysboro correctional center will house 20 inmates and eventually move that number to 114 while having a max staff of more than 60 officers.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports