YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Across the United States, more than 2.2 million people are behind bars. Between Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties, more than 1,000 people return to those areas from jail each year.
Earlier Monday afternoon, President Obama talked in New Jersey about what we can do as a country to help people get back into our communities after they are released from jail. He announced what he wants to happen to make sure people don’t end up back behind bars.
“Every year, we spend $80 billion in taxpayer dollars to keep people incarcerated,” Obama said. “I believe we can help those who have served their time and earned a second chance get the support they need to become productive members of society.”
Working to keep released inmates out of our prison system is nothing new in Ohio.
In Youngstown, the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence works to make sure inmates don’t end up back in jail after they’ve been released by preparing them for everyday life.
The coordinator, Guy Burney, works closely with people who have been, or will soon be released, from jail or prison.
“We connect to these individuals months before their release so when they get off the bus or when they get home, they know exactly where they can go to get help,” he said.
“If a person pays their debt to society and does the right thing, then there should be opportunities for these individuals.”
Some of the biggest challenges for people released from jail include employment opportunities.
That’s why the city of Youngstown removed the felony check box on job applications earlier this year. State lawmakers are working to remove that box from all job applications across the state.
“A person can actually get a seat at the table before you see their record and possibly get an opportunity for employment,” Burney said.