YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Several organizations collaborated Saturday in an effort to help lower Ohio’s prison population.
Groups gathered at the Metro Assembly of God to talk about the underlying reasons for the high prison population and their plan to fix it.
The Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MOVOC) teamed up with several other organizations for the Northeast Ohio Lifeline Healing Boot Camp. The effort is part of a national campaign targeting incarceration.
“Our main goal is to cut the Ohio prison population in half in the next 20 years,” said MVOC Community Organizer Mark Gavin, Sr. “When it comes down to it, the reason why there is so much violence and why so many people of color end up in jail is because of lack of opportunity.”
Gavin says school systems play a huge role in the problem. He says inner city schools are not being properly funded and the children’s education suffers because of it. He says students are not equipped to go to college, so they find illegal ways to make money which often leads to serving time behind bars.
“One of the main problems when people leave these prison facilities is while they ended up in them often times because of lack of opportunity, they have less opportunity when they leave,” said Gavin.
It has been 20 years since Akim Lattermore of Youngstown was in prison, and he knows first-hand what others are going through. He has earned several degrees and stayed out of trouble, but says it is still hard for him to find a good job.
And the problem goes even deeper. The organization recognizes and wants to effectively address what they call the school to prison pipeline.
“Basically, they can tell from what school district you are born in and you live in what your chances of going to prison are,” said Lattermore.
Youngstown City just passed a fair hiring policy to help those leaving prison get jobs. They have removed the question on job applications that asks if an applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.
The organizations are working to get a statewide policy passed.