In 1985, Bishop Joseph Imesch of the Catholic Diocese of Joliet, commissioned Sister Juanita Ujcik, OSF to minister to the men and women inmates of the DuPage County Correctional Facility. Sr. Juanita began with education classes for men which became so popular that requests for other classes were suggested by the inmates.
Sr. Juanita started a life skills class for women and developed a business plan for a volunteer organization to assist with the growing needs of the inmates. Sr. Juanita was given seed money of $10,000 from Bishop Imesch, in 1986, to start the nonprofit organization JUST with Sr. Juanita as the first Executive Director. The Dupage County Correctional Facility provided an office with enough room for additional JUST Staff. Three years later JUST becomes the sole provider of all chaplaincy, remedial and enrichment education, rehabilitation programs, job training, social services and manages the growing volunteer programs. Sr. Juanita passes the torch to a new executive director.
Sister left JUST in 1989 and returned to Joliet as the Director for the Center of Correctional Concerns. She served on many committees for Social Justice and with the Office of Human Dignity of the Diocese of Joliet. Sr. Juanita passed away on December 9, 2019 and was supremely happy with the advancement of the organization she founded.
Today, JUST is an incredible organization with countless talented, compassionate, intelligent and devoted employees, volunteers and leaders. Thousands of inmate’s lives have been changed for the better because of the wonderful people, over the years, that have comprised the JUST organization. These people include the executive directors, employees and board members.
JUST has expanded its vocational programs that assists the men and women with reentry back into their communities. These programs include certified custodial, welding, painting and drywall services, horticulture and a certified car detail service program.
Michael Beary, Executive Director, along with the DuPage County Sheriff, James Mendrick, are developing a reentry program that will be the first of its kind in the country. The program is called Reentry Initiative Through Entrepreneurship (RITE) which will be established in a separate 10,000 square foot building on the DuPage County Correctional Facility’s campus. All reentry support will take place there including vocational skills training, counseling, addiction services, mentorship programs, reclaim drivers license support, job placement, transportation services and self-funding entrepreneurial businesses.
God has had a hand in this from the start and will continue according to His will.
picture 1 Sister Juanita Ujcik