‘This is our house’: Reclamation Center in Pilsen connects women leaving prison to services, emotional support

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Chicago Tribune on 9/21/2022 by Annie Sweeney

A crowd of parole and probation officers had assembled, filling in couches and chairs around a conference table in the sunny office space with exposed brick walls and high ceilings in the decidedly hip Lacuna Lofts building in Pilsen.

Colette Payne stood at the stage with a mic in her hand and a wide smile on her face.

“Welcome to the Women’s Justice Institute,” she said, then pausing for a few seconds.

“This,” she said to applause, “is our house.”

Payne, a director at the institute, and the other women there had collectively spent decades inside the Illinois prison system. But on a recent day, parole and probation agents from across the country — including the head of the women’s parole unit in the Illinois Department of Corrections — were at the institute’s newly opened Reclamation Center for a presentation by Payne and other formerly incarcerated women who run the center.