SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - In 2019, more than 23,000 men and women were released from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Last year, IDOC created a new program that's main focus is to provide the necessary services to people returning to society.

Administrator for the Reentry Program, Jennifer Parrack, said it's all about bridging the gap between life inside the correctional facility and when people are released on parole.

"We really knew that we were not adequately preparing our men and women to leave our correctional facilities and be successful," Parrack said. "For our men and women that have worked really hard in our correctional facilities to better themselves and get prepared to have a better life to support their family members upon release, we really need to be working hard to assist them."

The Reentry Program helps offenders accomplish a variety of things while still in custody.

"We ensure we're helping people get their birth certificates, social society cards ... being able to have the right paperwork to get their state ID," Parrack said. "We also work on connection to any follow-up treatment they may have around mental health, medical, any other additional programming and follow-up substance abuse treatment they may need. A really big focus over the last few moths has been around housing."

Parrack said it is important to ensure everyone has the right resources on the inside to be successful in their life on the outside.

"Really the next step for the Reentry Unit is to continue to build on the community relationships we have and ensure the community is welcoming people back," Parrack said.

According to IDOC, in the past year, the team has already increased Medicaid enrollment, helped more women receive SNAP benefits, removed time constraints on birth certificates and allowed men and women to apply for jobs before their release.

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