Help for Chicagoans adjusting to life after prison, Exelon pays legal bills in ComEd trial and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Help for Chicagoans adjusting to life after prison, Exelon pays legal bills in ComEd trial and more in your Chicago news roundup

Oscar Cayetano, a 23-year-old father of three, was released from prison at the beginning of this year and has had help getting back on his feet through the Supportive Reentry Network Collaborative.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about an eight-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

Weather 🌤️

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 81 degrees. Tonight, partly cloudy with a low near 48. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 62.

Top story

Program is ‘one stop shop’ for navigating life after prison

Oscar Cayetano left prison in January with little to his name beyond a court order to complete some classes on mental health and job readiness.

Cayetano, 23, did have a place to stay. What he didn’t have was health care, or a job, and even a form of ID he could show a potential employer.

It’s like that for many getting out of prison — and it’s why many end up going back.

But when the Humboldt Park native returned to Chicago this year, after serving time at a prison in Kansas for violent crimes, he was directed by a parole officer to the Safer Foundation in Belmont Cragin.

The foundation has helped people getting out since the early ’70s. But now it’s also become the lead organization of the Supportive Reentry Network Collaborative, a network of social services providers that aim to make sure returning citizens have everything needed to successfully navigate life after prison.

The network includes providers with different specialties, from Get to Work, which offers transportation services, to Heartland Alliance Health, which offers primary and dental care. By working together, the providers can make sure that none of their help is wasted. If one group finds someone a job, for instance, another group can make sure they have a way to get there.

In Illinois, around 40% of people leaving prison wind up back inside within three years, according to a 2019 study by the Metropolitan Planning Council, a Chicago-based nonprofit.

Often, a lack of basic support is to blame, with trouble finding housing the main reason for that high rate, according to the study. Other factors include lack of access to health care or a job. Affecting all of that can be the difficulty in getting a government-issued ID card.

“When you get out of prison, you’re trying to rebuild your life and to do that there are 15 areas you need to figure out,” said Safer CEO Victor Dickson. “It can seem impossible.”

That’s why Safer and the other organizations formed the network in 2020.

More on the collaborative from our Michael Loria.

More news you need

A bright one ✨

Giant snapping turtle ‘Chonkosaurus’ evidence of a much cleaner Chicago River

The man behind the viral video of a huge snapping turtle nicknamed “Chonkosaurus” catching sunbeams along the Chicago River said the sighting points to the improving health of the historically polluted waterway.

Joey Santore and his friend Al Scorch were kayaking and filming a video on plants growing along the river when they came upon the massive reptile lounging on the water near Goose Island.

Everything about the video screams Chicago, from the previously polluted stream of water to Santore’s recognizable accent as he marvels at the turtle’s size.

“That’s a Chicago river snapper,” Santore’s friend comments from the background. “Are you kidding me?”

This photo provided by Joey Santore shows a snapping turtle relaxing along a Chicago River.

Footage of this large snapping turtle, relaxing along the Chicago River, has gone viral. Joey Santore, who filmed the well-fed reptile, marveled at its size and nicknamed it “Chonkosaurus.”

Joey Santore/Distributed by the Associated Press

The sight comes as a surprise as snapping turtles are rarely seen in Chicago until June, if at all, marine biologist Chris Anchor told NBC5. Yet, they are more common than most know. Chonkosaurus or “Chonko,” as it is known to online fans, may be the first of many snapping turtles to emerge as more Chicagoans take to the river.

In the 19th century, the meatpacking and lumber industries used the river for shipping, and the waterway became a dumping ground for industries and for sewage. But the river’s quality has improved in recent years.

Santore said that snapping turtles can survive in “pretty nasty water,” but that seeing one that big not far from downtown is good news for wildlife that call the area home.

“Since people aren’t dumping raw sewage and petrochemicals into it as much anymore it certainly seems like there’s life coming back,” Santore said.

More on “Chonko” and the Chicago River from our Nyarai Khepra and Emmanuel Camarillo.

From the press box 🏈⚾️🏀

Your daily question☕

What’s the best coffee shop in Chicago? Tell us why.

Email us (please include your first and last name) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What’s an issue in your ward that you hope Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration addresses?

Here’s some of what you said...

“Cancel the NASCAR race because it’s going to be just one more nightmare for us people living downtown!” — Bill Linden

“In the 4th Ward, a good supermarket, now that the mini Walmart on Cottage Grove closed. Affordable housing. A dog park.” — Rica Duffers Cuff

“It’s not an issue in my ward, but citywide, the number of unsolved murders is horrifying. The quick capture of those who murdered a police officer shows what can be done when there is an incentive.” — Mark Mardell

“The 48th Ward needs MORE 151 buses, especially between Irving Park and Devon. There are an inordinate amount of people with wheelchairs, shopping carts, walkers, baby carriages, etc. — mainly from noon to 8 p.m. Buses fill up very quickly and it can take as long as 40 minutes to wait for the next one. Not fun considering Chicago’s weather. More bus shelters would be nice, too. The other biggie is to use some of that infrastructure money to fix the broken sidewalks. I must’ve tripped seven times in the last few years. And, what genius came up with those half-curbs?” — Susan Danzig

“I hope Mayor Brandon Johnson addresses the littering of Divvy Bikes along our lakefront. Rental bikes are supposed to be either docked or locked to something by customers and not parked randomly on sidewalks, streets or parks. People fly here from all over the world to experience our beautiful ‘garden in a city,’ and these bikes are littering our best jewel.” — Gene Tenner

“In the 5th Ward, remediating some of the worst effects of the Obama Center in Jackson Park. Keeping Cornell Drive open. Avoiding the theft of a section of Midway Plaisance wetlands for a playground that was evicted from Jackson Park. Keeping 5th Ward residents from being priced out of our homes. Canceling the PGA golf course in Jackson and South Shore Parks. Reducing the footprint of the whole thing. Basically, to rein in the worst excesses of the Obama Center’s unwise, overdone plans.” — Roger D.

“We lost our YMCA when they closed during COVID leaving a giant void for kids and older residents. We have to give people access to positive recreational activities.” — Kyle Hillman

“I’d like a pathway to engagement in the 45th ward on issues that are important in our community. But, I think there are bigger issues, I am willing to wait. Fully funded public schools and youth engagement, Peace Book, Bring Chicago Home, Treatment Not Trauma are top issues.” — Leigh M.

“Cyclist/pedestrian safety and improving transit to at least pre-pandemic levels.” — Harry L.

“In the 33rd Ward, traffic. I’ve never seen traffic this bad on the highways and main streets.” — Ben L.

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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