Courses for the Formerly Incarcerated

Join a community that offers hope – with a plan.

Re-entering society after being released from jail or prison can be overwhelming. Not only are you saddled with a criminal record that carries a stigma, but it’s hard to know where to begin putting your life back together.

Break the Chains of Incarceration

When you first get out or jail or prison, you will likely need, well, everything: housing, a driver’s license, a car, a job, a bank account, a credit card – the list is endless.

And each item on the list comes with a myriad of obstacles and is seemingly linked to the next. How can you get a driver’s license without an address? And how can you get and hold a job without a license?

When you factor in that many of us have outdated skills, limited exposure to technology, and inadequate support when we’re released, it’s no wonder that so many end up back in the system.

In 2016, Illinois saw 71,551 new convictions; of those, 63,681 – or 89% – were reoffenders headed back to prison. [1]
89%
Anticipated Recidivism [2]
50 %
of Illinois prisoners will eventually be released.
13 %
reoffend within a year
25 %
reoffend within 3 years
Up to 75% of those who are formerly incarcerated do not have a job within one year of their release.[3]
75%
Hope concept. Wooden blocks with text on white background

Our Approach

Helping You Help Yourself

2nd Opportunity’s programming is catered to men and women inside jails and prisons preparing for release, as well as those on the outside who are formerly incarcerated and struggling to gain traction.

The courses aim to build your dignity and self-worth while empowering you to improve your life. Whether you believe it yet or not, you already have the inherent abilities and talent you need to create the kind of life you want and deserve.

Our program presenters – men and women with lived experience themselves – are here just to be your guide, helping you build (or rebuild) your confidence, providing resources and referrals to get back on your feet, and arming you with the skills and tools you need to become a working, self-sufficient member of society—and stay that way.

Program Offerings

We recommend that you take our three courses in the sequence presented below. Because we believe the content is so valuable and don’t want you to miss any of it, we offer a discounted rate when you sign up for the three-course program bundle. Here’s what to expect for each:

A Path Forward©

A program designed for those who are re-entering society after being released from jail or prison. The most comprehensive of our three courses, A Path Forward© includes two hours of video instruction, a 42-page workbook, and activities and quizzes to reinforce the material covered.

Your program presenter will guide you through:

  • Examining trauma and its impact on your behavior
  • Understanding the essential concepts and challenges of starting over
  • Defining what success means to you and what really matters in your life
  • Crafting your story and talking about your background on job interviews
  • Being part of a team and dealing with workplace conflict
  • And much more

A Path to Financial Freedom©

A program designed to teach participants the fundamentals of finance needed to function in today’s world. The course includes 90 minutes of video instruction, a 23-page workbook, and activities and quizzes to ensure participants are absorbing the material.

Basic skills covered include: 

  • Budgeting
  • Operating a checking account
  • Paying taxes
  • Applying for financial aid
  • Filling out employment forms
  • Establishing credit
  • And much more

Values-Aligned Goal Setting©

An interactive workshop designed to help people reevaluate and rebuild following incarceration by determining their values and setting attainable goals that will set them up for long-term success. Participants will have access to two hours of video instruction, a 35-page workbook, and quizzes, activities and goal-setting worksheets they can refer back to for years to come as they progress through their career and life goals.

Throughout the course, you’ll learn how to:

  • Determine your values
  • Set “bedrock” and “building” goals
  • Identify potential obstacles to reintegrating into society
  • Develop and pursue a meaningful career path
  • And much more

Dedicated Support Network

We know firsthand that resources and support are essential to overcoming the challenges of re-entry, which is why enrollment in our programming also includes:

Network

Referrals for employment, housing, substance abuse counseling, and other essential support services.

Trainings

Skills development courses, lectures and webinars.

Support Groups

Virtual and In-person peer-to-peer meetings and connections.

Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring for those who need additional support.

Get Started

If you didn’t have the opportunity to take 2nd Opportunity’s courses while in jail or prison, you can access them through our website and complete them at your own pace. Still have questions? Feel free to email us or call us at 847-257-2713.

Don't miss new programs, events and updates

Recent Success Stories

References

1 and 2. Lyon, E. “Illinois Calculates the High Costs of Recidivism.” Prison Legal News, 5 February 2019, URL .

3. Lo, Kenny, and Amaning, Akua, the CAP Poverty Team. “Update to ‘News You Can Use: Research Roundup for Re-Entry Advocates.’” Center for American Progress, 25 June 2020,  URL .