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A new outlook for offenders at the Kewanee Life Skills Re-entry Center

KEWANEE, Illinois - The Kewanee Life-Skills Center opened on February 16th, 2017 with a new purpose, to help inmates get the skills to live a normal life after prison.

46% of offenders in Illinois will return to prison within 3 years and this center is the first one of it's kind in the country for high risk inmates.

Sammy Stewart, an inmate from East Moline, landed himself in prison seven years ago.

"Robbed a local business in Peoria area, took some people hostage and put them in the walk in cooler and stole money from the safe," said Stewart.

It's his 9-year-old son that makes him want to work hard here at the life skills re-entry center.

"I've been in prison before and I had no responsibilities, it was just me and this time I have a son and that's what's changed for me," said Stewart.

The center isn't like your normal prison, inmates with a maximum of five years left on their sentence must apply to get in.

"They generally give you the greeting of the day and ask you how your day is and they expect that in return and again going to foster what we're trying to do and de-institutionalizing and humanizing these guys," said Warden Tony Williams.

The inmates work on skills in the classroom that they are able to use in the real world.

"It`s really conducive to that positive mental attitude, working on their self esteem, working on their skills, if everybody is on that same page," said Williams.

Stewart said he's hoping to start a career when he gets out in December of 2018.

"I've actually learned how to weld since I've been in prison, so hopefully that`ll transition into a career when I go home," said Stewart.

Until then, he'll continue to work hard to stay out of prison for life.

Currently there are 59 offenders at the center and it can hold up to 658.