PEORIA, Ill -- Peoria's Don't Shoot Program takes action to make sure ex-offenders have choices for putting their guns down. Authorities want to make good on their promise and help them become productive members of society.
This young man, who we'll call Tony, recently contacted the Peoria Police Department's Krista McCavitt for help. He was among the nearly 30 people who participated in the Don't Shoot Program's Call-in last month, where authorities warned violent offenders to change their ways or face hefty prison time.
"I took it as another chance and I also took it as a threat that will be used," Tony said. "So, it's something I ain't gonna play with. The turning point was when I got locked up and I could have been gone for the rest of my life, by me almost losing my life numerous times, that last time made me open my eyes."
Tony says despite growing up with one parent around he made bad choices and wound up stealing and selling drugs, which landed him in and out of jail several times. He says it led him to a lifestyle that was spiraling out of control.
"I got kids, I got family, you know, that will miss me if I'm dead or locked up, so I felt like I was putting a lot on the line," he said.
Now, the 30-year-old says his daily schedule is packed with GED classes, a parenting program, and a re-entry course at the Tri County Urban League. He says Krista McCavitt pointed him to several places where he's rebuilding life skills. McCavitt says Tony seems motivated by a desire to succeed.
"It's not something we can do for anyone. They have to put the work in. We can give them access to all of the services and resources available in our area and give them every opportunity possible, but unless something inside them wants to change for the better that has found as he has that breaking point," she said.
Tony says he's getting support from a girlfriend and close relatives for the changes he's making.
"I think I'm flying straight this time. I don't see no turning back from this change because it's something I been needed," he said.
He's speaking out now in hopes that others will follow the path he's taken.
Krista McCavitt says ex-offenders can call the city for help even if you were not a part of the Don't Shoot call-in program. The number is 494-8233.