SCRN Works with Inmates to Help them Reenter Society

summit-county-reentry-logo

Story by Lyndsey Schley

 

The United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world. About 2,200,000 people were incarcerated in the U.S. in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Most of these people will eventually leave prisons or jails to return to society. In Summit County, the Summit County Reentry Network, or SCRN, aims to make this transition as smooth as possible.

guysThe Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

 

“People Do Make Mistakes”
Reentry Coordinator Ayana Comrie said SCRN includes more than 60 social service, government, faith-based organizations and agencies that provide ex-offender resources.

Comrie said prisoners face a variety of barriers when they get out of prison, from finding jobs and securing housing to more personal issues such as repairing family ties.

“How can you get back into your family, how do you fix those relationships?” Comrie said “How do you repair those bridges that you may have burned prior to being incarcerated or while you were incarcerated?”

ACAyana Comrie

 

Comrie said a big barrier for former inmates is stigma, but she said it is important to allow these people to participate in their community so they stay on the right side of the law.

“We can’t cast people away because they have issues, but we act like we don’t have some of the same issues,” she said. “That person could be your brother, your sister, your child, you. It could be anyone. So we really have to take a step back from our own personal biases.”

However, she said only about 29 percent of inmates reoffend in three years.

“People do make mistakes,” Comrie said. “Some people are repeat offenders, where they make the same mistake over and over again because they have not yet learned a lesson. But for the most part, people, when they go to prison and they do come home, they don’t want to go back. But you have to give them an opportunity to do something different, or else they will go back.”

SCRN does not just start helping with reentry once a prisoner is released. They run a number of programs within institutions to prepare inmates for the outside world.

GCFThe Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

 

Prepping for the Outside on the Inside

Grafton Correctional Institution hosts a television studio within one of its buildings. Two walls are painted to make a green screen. Cameras, mics and lighting equipment focus in on Comrie and an inmate named Nasiir, host of a show called ReGeneration: Bridging the Gap.

HopeimageThe Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

 

This program is being recorded for the HOPE Channel, a TV channel available at Northeast Ohio prisons made for inmates by inmates. The programing ranges from more serious shows like ReGeneration to a movie review show.

The network celebrated its two year anniversary July 2. They plan to expand to a second channel soon.

Inmates like Nasiir and Dwain, who were running the cameras and sound equipment, participate in the show as part of an apprenticeship.

ReGeneration: Bridging the Gap is a program that focuses on preparing inmates to reenter the world after prison. The conversations do not just consist of information about programs and resources, but also conversation about manhood, purpose, character and success.

Comrie shares some of her personal experiences to help along these discussions. She said she personally is not much of sharer, but she does what she can on the show to help the inmates.

opi_gciThe Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

 

“Transparency is important. And even in my sharing, of course, there’s a boundary that I don’t cross,” She said. “But if my experience can help them in some way or form them to be better individuals when they come home, then I feel like it’s my duty and my obligation to lend that to them and be able to give them the perspective that they need.”

She said they often ask her for a woman’s perspective on relationships, since they have limited access to this in prison. Some have grown up in institutions and have very little insight into how relationships work on the outside.

“Especially if they’re coming out and they don’t have children, [they say] ‘Okay, I don’t even know how to begin to try to start a family,’” she said. “Then if they do have children, well, [they say] ‘I don’t even know what to do with these kids’ or ‘how do I deal with the mother of my children’ or ‘how do I deal with my wife?’”

Nasiir told Comrie how much he values these insights during the show.

“I can’t go out and ask one of the smartest people I know in this institution and get this information,” he said.

Comrie said she has also learned a lot from the inmates she interacts with.

“They’re really incredible and they do teach me a lot without saying a whole lot,” she said. “Just by looking at their strengths and the time that they’ve been in prison and just how much they’ve been able to accomplish and just how they have not lost confidence and hope. It’s really inspiring.”

Ready for Work

ReGeneration is just one of the assets the prison has to help inmates when they get out. They run a variety of training programs, from horticulture to graphic design, where inmates can learn real-world skills.

Once an inmate is two years or less away from release, they gain access to One Stop Shop, an in-prison extension of Ohio Mean Jobs. There, they can work on resumes and view job listings on restricted computers.

They also have a Video Inreach Program about 90 days before the inmate is released. SCRN uses a video conference to help inmates prepare for life in the community.

“We sit down with a bunch of providers and we kind of talk to them about a bunch of services that are available,” Comrie said. “They’re able to ask questions. We’re right there to answer and it’s just been really great.”

DonDonovan Harris

 

SCRN’s Reentry Liaison Donovan Harris is also working on putting together a program where inmates can help support each other once they get outside of prison.

“I’m trying to put together a mentor program or a peer-accountability program with a few of the guys that are coming home, that are coming back to Summit County,” Harris said. “So that’s fitting their needs to help their transition work a little more smoothly.”

SCRN has a variety of other programs for when inmates are released. Keep an eye out for our next article on what SCRN does to support reentering inmates in the community.

For more info. go to: summitcountyreentrynetwork.org/

One response to “SCRN Works with Inmates to Help them Reenter Society

  1. Thank you, Lyndsey for such insight into a world that is little known. Society and communities are the biggest obstacles for these citizens returning home from years of isolation from the outside world. You have helped shed a light on the importance of reentry support in order to reduce the chances of recidivism. Thanks, again!!

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