Happy Wednesday! On this day in 2007, Sun-Times publisher Conrad Black was found guilty of bilking more than $60 million from shareholders. He was pardoned by former President Trump in 2019.

🌀 Today's weather: Partly sunny with a high of 82.

Today's newsletter is 870 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Graduation at Stateville

Howard Keller and RΓ²Derick Zavala walk in their graduation procession at Stateville Correctional Center in June. Photo courtesy of Phillip Dembinski and North Park University

A unique class of Illinois students received master's degrees last month in front of their cheering and weeping families.

  • Most were inmates at Stateville Correctional Center, where they have been studying Christian Ministry and Restorative Arts through North Park University.
  • The inaugural graduating class became the first of its kind in the state.

Why it matters: The program has the potential to help incarcerated people become a source of healing, teaching and crime prevention both in and out of correctional facilities.

The backstory: Former North Park dean of faculty Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom started the program to offer theological higher education to the "most invisible, most impacted by intersecting social ills β€” poverty, racism, abuse." Most of the students had never had access to quality education, she tells Axios.

Context: Restorative arts is "the theological study of personal healing and societal transformation," assistant director Vickie Reddy tells Axios.

  • In addition to Bible studies, theology and history, the program includes courses on trauma, race relations, nonviolent communication, conflict transformation, restorative practices and transformative justice.

By the numbers: The free four-year program is currently offered at Stateville to 80 incarcerated men and to 20 women at Logan Correctional Center.

What they're saying: "What North Park University understood with this program is that we achieve our highest calling as a community when those who have the least among us are leading the charge to get us there," Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said at the graduation.

  • "We are interconnected. We are one another."

The big picture: This means "our potential is not defined by our worst mistakes," graduate Jamal Bakr said during the ceremony.

  • "Let today's event be an example of what happens when opportunities are created, potentials are unignored and complete restoration is always the aim of justice."

What's next: Axios spoke with some of the graduates about gun violence, bond reform, generational trauma and the corrections system.

  • We'll present those discussions throughout the summer.
Photo of graduates posing
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx (in pink) with graduates last month. Photo courtesy of Phillip Dembinski and North Park University

2. The case for masked hours

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

While we might be back down to "medium" COVID-19 transmission risk levels, hospitalizations across Illinois have actually doubled since mid-April.

Why it matters: Those vulnerable to serious cases have few public places where they can be sure others are wearing masks.

  • So we asked readers and officials at a handful of local institutions about possible solutions.

By the numbers: When asked if Chicago should consider masked hours, 354 Axios readers answered definitively.

  • Yes β€” 73.4%.
  • No β€” 26.6%.

Reality check: Few places beyond theaters and the Logan Square Farmers Market β€” which has a masked first hour β€” offer these protections.

  • We also sent out masking hour inquiries to the MCA, the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, Mariano's and the Museum of Science and Industry.
  • Not one responded.

πŸ’­ Justin's thought bubble: It's not a new idea. Heck, there have been special early hours set aside for much less. (Disneyland, anyone?) I like it and applaud the Logan Square Farmers Market for stepping up.

  • It's well past time for more local institutions to start thinking again about their immunocompromised constituents.

3. Map of the Day: IL is losing more people

Net inbound and outbound migration
Data: Equifax, Moody's Analytics; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Though Illinois actually gained population in the last census, trends have changed in the last year.

  • According to new data from Moody's Analytics, more people are leaving our state than are moving in.

By the numbers: Illinois has the fourth-highest outbound migration rate in the U.S. after California, New York and New Jersey.

  • In 2021, that migration rate was 43% inbound and 57% outbound.

Explore the interactive map.

4. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ§‘β€πŸ« A nationwide teacher shortage has some local school districts worried about opening on time. (Tribune)

βœ… Former Rep. Dan Lipinski is not running in the 6th District. Instead, he's exploring joining forces with Rep. Adam Kinzinger to support an Independent party in Illinois. (NBC 5)

Domestic violence surged in 2021, according to a new report. (Sun-Times)

🍽️ What FX show "The Bear" gets right (and wrong) about Chicago. (Block Club)

⚾ Former manager Ozzie Guillen called out the White Sox, saying, "I don't see the fight." (NBC Sports)

Quote du jour

"I will miss spending time with you every day, but hopefully, this too will pass and one day down the road, I will announce brightly on the airwaves of 93XRT, 'It's Friday. It's great to be alive.'"
β€” WXRT's Lin Brehmer. The legendary disc jockey is starting chemotherapy for prostate cancer and taking a leave of absence starting Monday.

Your future begins here

⏳ We handpick the best among the rest with our local job listings.

  1. Sr. Manager Media Relations at BlueCross BlueShield Association.
  2. Senior Vice President, Business Development at WCG.
  3. Human Resources Coordinator at The American Dental Association.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. The hot dogs of July

Dozie (left), cooling off and looking like she's auditioning for a beer commercial. Golden doodle Zydeco (right) knows what he wants β€” a green rope and a walk. Photos: Derek N. (L) and Karen J. (R)

It's time for our monthly fashion-forward look at the hottest dogs in Chicago.

  • These pups are simultaneously on fire, on point and on fleek.
Photo of two dogs
Sammy (left), rocking a green bowtie, epitomizes Andersonville hot. Meanwhile, Simon (right), a stylish chiweenie, looks like a model for Abercrombie & Fitch. Photos: Terri K. (L) and Kathy T. (R)
Photo of two dogs
Cookie (left) takes her first trip to the water since being adopted from Arkansas. Cash's (right) human says he loves "long walks along the lakefront." Work it, Cash! Photos: Meg M. (L) and Alyssa V. (R)

πŸ“« Send us photos of your hot dogs enjoying the summer.

  • Just tell us their name and what they like to do!

6. Where's Justin? Asia on Argyle

Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Finally, a tough quiz for our readers.

  • Justin was at Asia on Argyle at Broadway and Argyle streets on the North Side, specifically in front of the "East Meets West" mural created by Ginny Sykes.

πŸ‘ Congrats to William B. and Helen P., whose names we pulled from a steel wok.

  • You can claim your Axios swag at our next live event, which will be early next month!

Editor's note: Yesterday's 1 big thing on assault weapons was corrected to state the kind of gun used in the mass shooting in Highland Park was a semi-automatic weapon, not an automatic weapon.

Editor's note: Today's 1 big thing on the graduation at Stateville has been corrected to note that Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom is the former dean of faculty at North Park, not the current dean.

Our picks:

πŸ§ͺ Monica is running low on COVID home tests and reminds readers that they can order them here or pick up a free batch at Walgreens or CVS with a health insurance card.

🎸 Justin is digging this jam by Rainbow Kitten Surprise. I mean, aren't we all in a freefall?

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