MURPHYSBORO — Danel Tiney hugged his brother and said to him, “Don’t ever leave me again."
Tiney's brother, Benny Webb, had just graduated on Tuesday from the Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program — and was released to go home at Murphysboro Life Skills Re-Entry Center.
"All I could do is pray that God had him in his care," Webb's mother, Cynthia Person, said.
Webb and his classmates have spent 120 days learning structure, attending education classes, doing community service in the Impact Incarceration Program. This is the first group to graduates after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation to revamp the program to focus on rehabilitation instead of being a military-style boot camp program.
Pinckneyville Correctional Center Warden David Mitchell, who oversees the program, explained that the program focuses on rehabilitation to give the young men in the program the best chance to be successful outside of prison.
“You made it. Take what you learned from the program into society. Each one of you has the ability to make it in society. The court has given you a second chance. Go home and have good lives,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell told them he hoped to never see them inside a penitentiary again.
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“If I see you on the street, by all means say hello,” he said.
Participants who complete the 120-day program are released from prison without serving their full sentences. They go home on parole after their release.
IDOC Major Greg James told those gathered for graduation that participants are required to get up at the same time each day, get dressed, make their beds and keep their property in order, attend health and wellness classes and education classes. The program teaches structure and discipline.
“We’re proud of them. It’s rewarding to see it come to fruition,” James said.
Two graduates spoke during the ceremony: Diablique Benton and Jonathon Mathews.
“The Structured Impact Program is a great program. I will continue to do the things I learned in my everyday life,” Benton said.
He said the program taught honesty, responsibility, and moral standards, along with setting positive goals and the idea that only you control yourself.
“We are one day closer to home. The program works if you work it,” Benton said.
Benton said the motto “one day closer to home” helped get him through the tough days of the program. He was excited to go home and see his family.
Mathews turned his life around in a very physical way, too. James told the crowd that Mathews could not do a sit up or push up. “He made a decision to change his life,” James said.
Mathews did not know if he would be able to finish the program, but he said the staff kept pushing him.
“The program allowed me to see the limits I could push myself to achieve,” Mathews said. “It helped me build a new character for myself.”
He lost 65 pounds and became fit, saying it was rough when he first entered the program. He had to adjust mentally, break himself to build himself back up.
“You get out of this program what you put in it,” he said.
He said the program is the first thing he’s completed in his life. He is excited to go home and see his two daughters.
“Three months ago, I gave you homework. I asked what you wanted to be when you grow up. You said all kinds of things, but none of you said you wanted to come back. Go out and chase your dreams,” James said.
Because of COVID-19, the Du Quoin facility was closed. The Impact Incarceration Program has operated out of one wing of the Murphysboro Re-Entry Center. Mitchell hopes to have the staff to re-open Du Quoin soon.