Over the past 30 years Joe Schmitt has been charged with Domestic Violence, Unlawful use of a Weapon, DUI, Destruction of Property, Deceptive Practices, and has 13 Class X Drug offenses among other charges.  During this time he has been sentenced to 6 years of probation, 15 years of incarceration and 6 years of parole. 

During incarceration, he was a product of the rehabilitative aspect of the Department of Corrections.  He was blessed with the opportunity to earn his GED, certification as a Substance Abuse professional, certification as an HIV Awareness peer, Certification as a Food Safety and Sanitation Manager   and three Associates Degrees.  In addition to education, Joe’s rehabilitation granted him a vision from God to start an organization to assist others like him from going back to prison. Today, Joe is Founder and President of F.I.S.T. Inc. (Former Inmates Striving Together).  F.I.S.T. is an organization of formerly incarcerated men and women drawing on their experiences and focusing their energy to assist ex-offenders reintegrate into society.  Through F.I.S.T Joe has worked tirelessly to achieve the goal of “Breaking the Chains of Recidivism”.



For more than 8  years, Former Inmates Striving Together, Inc. (F.I.S.T.) has devoted its energy to passionately advocate for the prisoner returning successfully to society. Pleae find it in your heart to contribute to the future of those in need of a second chance today

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Each year there are over 600,000 ex-offenders that are returning to their home communities after they have served their prison sentences. Housing, employment, and the lack of basic education and skills are all major factors in the barriers that men and women that have been formerly incarcerated face when they are released. Additionally, support systems that specifically address these needs are few and far between. While many have the initial desire to be self-supportive and prove themselves capable of changing their lives for the better, the lack of resources, opportunities, and hope quickly wear down wear down their resolve resulting in their turning back to their old ways and returning back to the prison system. Not surprisingly, the majority of people coming out of prison do not succeed in staying out. It is estimated that roughly 2/3rds of all those released from prison will return within just a few short years. Within the first months of release,  high hopes quickly deteriorate due to the reality of limited employment opportunities, an unwillingness of employers to even consider an applicant having a criminal past, not having the necessary job and life skills to make it in this world today, and having a lack of spiritual grounding.

F.I.S.T. , Inc. helps and supports those who have been jailed or imprisoned. We look to make a difference by offering them a firm foundation to begin to rebuild their lives. Literally thousands of studies and reports show that there are four major problem areas that affect the likelihood of ex-offenders returning to crime. These problem areas include the inability to secure stable employment, housing, substance abuse treatment, and the learning of pro-social behaviors. Spiritual fellowship also has a tremendous impact on preventing ex-offenders from returning to crime.  F.I.S.T. , Inc. addresses all five of these areas. 

Over 30 volunteers from F.I.S.T. helped with the "Paint the Town" Project downtown. Other sites you might have seen them have been at Clearview School working with United Way to  construct a playground for the students; along Amstutz, downtown Waukegan , the beachfront, or after a special event cleaning up the streets & picking up garbage; helping out local churches with building maintenance & "face lifts"; or even planting and taking care of  a public garden through Green Town.  F.I.S.T. Members have been busy throughout the area giving back and performing admirably.

From the beginning, F.I.S.T. Has been a strong proponent for employment training and education for its members. Whether setting up interviews to become employed, obtaining a state I.D and driver's license, being taught a realistic 12-Step program geared to the formerly incarcerated, training in the office, or mentoring, our members have gained new insight and hope for the future.  A shining example of "Striving Together"!


Are you Interested in helping F.I.S.T. , Inc. achieve these goals? The organization and its members can always use bus passes to assist with job searching and initial transportation to a new job, gift cards to Kmart, Target, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc. which will help with obtaining toiletries, building upkeep, and office supplies. Additionally, we are always on the look out for employment opportunities for our members. F.I.S.T. Inc. can screen job candidates to fit the needs of your business. Donations enable us provide the support system that is needed as these individuals seek to rebuild their lives and to re-enter society as productive contributors.

Joe Schmitt




Former Inmates Striving Together, Inc.

Working hard to significantly reduce recidivism!