COLUMBUS (WCMH)–More than 50,000 men and women are behind bars in Ohio prisons. When they are released, many of them want to start a new life. But barriers to a life on the outside can be enormous.
The goals of a Columbus State Community College summit are to keep former offenders from reoffending. The program, called “Restored Citizen Summit,” is meant to be a starting line to help offenders ease back into society.
For 37 ½ years Eddie Slade was in prison, then in 2013 he changed his life.
“I did 5 ½ years came home and brought prison to the streets with me. And ended up going back for murder and doing 31 years,” said Slade.
He’s been out three years and is a product of the Restored Citizen Summit.
“I didn’t know how to use a computer, didn’t know how to use a phone I didn’t even know how to catch a bus,” Slade said.
Fast forward to today and Slade said he is giving back to other offenders.
“It is great to have somebody who has been there done that, reaching out to you when you come home, saying, ‘man, this works’ and knocks the barriers down,” said Slade.
Jamaica Galloway, who is just out of the Ohio Reformatory for Women, still has to prove herself.
“When I first went in I was broken,” said Galloway. For 10, years Galloway said she missed watching her twin 5-year-old girls and son grow up. Now, she said her own life is about taking baby steps.
“I’m just proud of myself where I am today and even with my daughters I can stay connected with Girl Scouts. And I just got my job at Kroger. It felt good to go get my ID yesterday,” said Galloway.
Working through the department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and many other agencies the idea reinforced is change is possible. Topics covered at the summit include: information on starting a business, financial resources for going back to school, child support, BMV assistance, and resume assistance. Educational workshops were available, but one official said making the change is not always a simple fix.
“A large majority of the individuals who are coming into incarceration have mental health and ALD issues,” said Kysten Palmore with the Franklin County Reentry Coalition.
Getting them a job and home isn’t enough.
“Looking at the person holistically and providing those serves are what people working in reentry are looking to do,” said Palmore.
Officials say two of the biggest hurdles for offenders are employment and housing. The idea is to provide information, networking and resources for former offenders.