Program aids women in earning degrees while incarcerated, another City Council departure and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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A group of students attends a Northwestern University design thinking class at the Logan Correctional Center, which houses Illinois’ only full liberal arts program for incarcerated women.

Anna Savchenko/WBEZ

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Northwestern program aids women in obtaining degrees while incarcerated

The inside of the education building at the Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois looks like a regular high school.

Most classrooms are empty. But on a recent weekday, one fills up with a dozen or so incarcerated women — the first female cohort of Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program.

These programs are extremely rare in Illinois and around the country. While college students across Illinois have been returning to campus in recent weeks to start a new semester, there are few options for women in prison. Logan has the only liberal arts degree-granting curriculum for incarcerated women in Illinois, and experts say it is one of only a small number of similar programs in the nation.

Prison education experts like Rebecca Ginsburg, a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, point to research showing the more education a person pursues while behind bars, the less likely they are to return.

“It doesn’t serve just the individual, that’s what’s been so clear from decades of research,” Ginsburg said. “Higher education is not an individual good. It’s a good that supports all of society, all the communities. It has ripple effects all throughout Illinois when we educate somebody who’s incarcerated.”

The Northwestern program first started in 2018 as a pilot program for incarcerated men at the Stateville Correctional Center. It has since expanded to Logan, a women’s prison a half-hour drive north of Springfield, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Aside from the program, the Illinois Department of Corrections mostly offers limited basic education or a small number of vocational courses to incarcerated women. There were once more degree-granting programs in prisons, but in 1994 people in prison lost eligibility for Pell Grants, the main federal financial aid program for low-income students.

The loss of Pell Grants forced many postsecondary prison education programs to shutter as most relied on federal funding, Professor Ginsburg explained.

Ginsburg expects this number to grow next year as the U.S. Department of Education plans to restore Pell Grant eligibility for students in prison.

WBEZ’s Anna Savchenko has more on the program here.

More news you need

  1. R. Kelly’s former business manager Derrel McDavid took the witness stand today, as Kelly’s trial on child pornography and obstruction charges nears a conclusion. Our Andy Grimm and Jon Seidel were there for the day’s proceedings and have more details here.
  2. Transportation Committee Chairman Howard Brookins (21st) today joined the parade of alderpersons retiring from the Chicago City Council. The announcement caps five terms and 20 years in politics for Brookins, 59.
  3. Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), who is also retiring, said yesterday she won’t miss “people who use you and throw you away like a piece of paper towel” — and she’s “not just” referring to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The outgoing alderperson made the remarks doing an exit interview of sorts with our Fran Spielman.
  4. Fifteen City Council members are saying, “No, thanks” to a 9.62% pay raise. The dilemma was seen as one that could have potentially affected their reelection chances, as Chicagoans continue to struggle at the gas pump and grocery store.
  5. Bishop Tavis Grant has been appointed the acting national executive director of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the civil rights organization announced. Grant will be filling a role temporarily at the group that was last filled by Rev. Tyrone Crider, who died in 2017.
  6. And former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official White House portraits today. Our Lynn Sweet has more on the big reveal here.
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A bright one

UniverSoul Circus ready for celebrating with Chicago audiences again at Washington Park

Ringmaster Cheyenne-Rose Dailey loves performing in UniverSoul Circus for the many opportunities the show presents to interact with audiences; and she loves performing in Chicago for its enthusiastic crowds, she said.

Audience members called to participate “never shy away from it,” Dailey said. “Chicago is always so willing,” she said.

The Atlanta-based circus is returning Friday to Washington Park, where the troupe has erected its one-ring big tent every year from 1996 through 2019. The troupe had to cancel the Chicago shows the past few years. Three years and one pandemic later, Dailey is raring for the city’s energy again.


Members of the Caribbean Dynasty dancers from Trinidad & Tobago perform during the UniverSoul Circus at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York April 7, 2017.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 80 performers are featured in the two-hour show, said Ben Johnson, director of operations for the circus.

Every year, the troupe decides on a theme, and coming out of the pandemic, the group wanted to defy any thinking that life was too difficult for people to achieve their goals, Dailey said.

“We wanted people to see that that’s not true. Once you continue to have that faith and you continue to push yourself and push others like you can achieve everything,” Dailey said.

Michael Loria has more with the UniverSoul Circus crew here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s something that every Chicagoan has in common?

Send us an email at and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What’s something that isn’t an official Chicago landmark but should be?

Here’s what some of you said...

“The pink Victorian house in Austin. It’s iconic.” — Stephanie Lyons-Belk

“The statue at the entrance to Bronzeville at 35th and King Drive.” — Erroll O’Neil

“Rainbow Cone on 92nd and Western.” — Dan Pawlowski

“The Billy Goat Tavern and Kingston Mines.” — Jim Keating

“The St. Charles Air Line and Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal (B&OCT) rail bridges over the river. They frame EVERY shot of the skyline taken from the 18th St bridge. So taken for granted.” — Jim Marciniak

“The Shameless house.” — Dave Matzinger

“Rockefeller Chapel.” — Pamela Barnes

“Harold’s chicken on 87th Street.” — Bruce Walker

“The Chicago Daily News Building (aka Two North Riverside). It is a Holabird and Root designed Art Deco gem and important monument to journalism. The concourse is missing its original ceiling mural, which was put into storage in the 90s, never restored, and held hostage ever since (give it back, Sam Zell!).” — Jennifer Marie

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

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