Few situations may seem bleaker than a recent parolee trying to put his or her life back together.
Their questions are many and the answers may be few -- where to live, how to fight addiction, what's involved in finding a job that provides the means to build a new life.
Elgin police are trying to help put parolees on the straight and narrow, but they aren't doing it alone.
The department's "Re-Entry Collaborative" is just that -- a collaborative effort that works with nonprofits and others to reach more people and offer resources to support those getting out of prison.
The program, which is voluntary and separate from what the state offers, is slowly growing and is very much a work in progress. Modeled after an effort administered by Rockford police, it attempts to apply its resources to address the critical need of finding ways to break what often seems to be a never-ending cycle of recidivism.
We're encouraged by the approach and hope more groups will join the effort. And, we urge other suburbs to watch carefully to see if Elgin's program can be a guide on some scale to help them address individual needs.
"For us, the benefit is pretty obvious," Elgin police Lt. Rick Ciganek told our Elena Ferrarin during the program's first public meeting last week. "It's the benefit to the community from (the parolees) not going back to committing crimes."
Elgin police and their partners are working to reach out to parolees living with family and friends and those in a state-contracted halfway house in the city to pitch the program that offers support in the task of rebuilding lives grappling with a host of changes.
The idea behind Elgin's Re-Entry Collaborative is to utilize a community network with the knowledge, resources and contacts to answer some of those vexing questions.
Police are partnering with such nonprofits as Renz Addiction Counseling Center, St. James AME Church and the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders, PADS, Gail Borden Public Library and Business and Career Services Inc, in Arlington Heights. Among the valuable items and services those groups provide are clothing, internet usage, resume help and job search assistance.
For parolees who are trying to figure out how to move forward with their lives, fulfilling any of those needs individually can be stressful, but dealing with them all at once after spending time in prison can be downright daunting without help.
The right support might be the difference between preparing someone to contribute to society and losing someone to a return to a life of crime.