As Recidivism Rates Drop In Ohio, Officials Work To Keep Ex-Felons From "Revolving Door" Of Prisons

By ideastream's Brian Bull

A one-day summit on helping former inmates ease back into society and not back behind bars was held today at The Word Church in Warrensville Heights. 

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction organized the event. Director Gary Mohr says ex-offenders are being helped to tackle addiction, unemployment, and other barriers that may keep them from fully re-integrating into society.

Mohr says Ohio is trying to build on several years’ decline in recidivism rates.  He says that the national rate is 49.7 percent.

“That’s pretty darn close to 50 percent, one out of two people across the country return to prison within 3 years," says Mohr. "In Ohio, it’s 27.5.  In fact, the last 5 years, we’ve consistently gone down.  I’m a little nervous about how far we can go down, because it’ll never get to zero.”

 Mohr says if Ohio’s recidivism rate matched that of the nation, there’d be 4,300 Ohioans being returned behind bars every year.

One of the most vital factors in keeping ex-felons from returning to prison is employment.  Attendees today checked out tables for materials on job training and career opportunities.

Among the former inmates looking to get back on their feet is Lameer Kidd.  He’s in his 40s, and trying to rebound after serving seven years for drug trafficking.

"They have me now in a halfway house.  I’m trying to start my own production company.  I learned video editing trade while I was inside.”

Kidd says he’d eventually like to do multimedia production on a national level.

Malicka Poole did 14 years for drug trafficking.  She’s in transitional housing, and is currently working with a community resource center….which may be a long-term job.

“I’d like to help other women, because I know the struggle," she says. "And I know how hard it is, and I want to help women before they even go to prison.  Because following behind a man is what got me in prison, and I wanna help sure they don’t follow the same road that I followed.”

Todd Ishee with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says there are training opportunities both in and outside prisons for a number of trades.  One of the most popular is for commercial drivers licenses.

“Data shows us that there are trucking jobs that are available that employers are not being able to fill, so we’re trying to target that, and train men and women to drive trucks and earn a decent living.”

Ishee says ex-felons also have a better chance these days of getting their foot in the door for Ohio’s civil service jobs.  A new “ban the box” effort means there’s no longer a box on applications asking if the job seeker has previously been convicted of a crime.

About 400 people came to the summit.

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