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Cuyahoga County Receives $1 Million Reentry Grant Amid Jail Controversy

Cuyahoga County Justice Center [Cuyahoga County]
Exterior of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center building behind a tube-like sculpture.

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded Cuyahoga County a $1 million federal grant on Thursday to help inmates reenter society.

During the three-year grant period, the county will set up programs to help with job placement. Crystal Bryant, Director of the Office of Reentry, says the programs will emphasize careers with opportunity for advancement. Another focus will be on legal help.

"We'll have a legal clinic where we have a partnership with Case Western Reserve University, where they'll focus on some legal issues in terms of debt as well as driver's license reinstatement," Bryant said.

Bryant adds mental health and homelessness are also barriers that affect reentry to society. 

"We'll focus on post incarceration trauma because a lot of times there's PTSD, but there are some specific concerns for the mental health of individuals who've been institutionalized in a correctional setting," Bryant said. "They're often not addressed. They're just expected to come home and be 'normal'."

Bryant says the county has seen a rise in homelessness among former inmates.

"It's very hard to move through any barriers in terms of workforce or reengaging with family if you don't have the basic needs of somewhere to lay your head," Bryant said.

The grant announcement comes two days after a demonstration from advocacy groups before and during a county council meeting regarding a U.S. Marshals report that described conditions at the jail as "inhumane". Seven inmates died between June and October at the county jail.

The groups presented a list of demands, one of which was more funding for reentry services. Both Bryant and county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said the county has consistently looked for more grant money and funding for reentry.

Bryant said this grant is typically awarded annually, and funding is always a concern, but reentry in Cuyahoga County can be improved with efficiency.

"So what we have to learn how to do is not compete with one another and not look for glory from one individual over the other, but instead look at how do we collectively support these individuals and their return," Bryant said. "And it has to be challenged at a macro, mezzo and micro system."

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.