Ohio Community Corrections Program Hires Former Prisoners to Work at Supermax
The closure of a minimum-security facility in Ohio created temporary jobs for prisoners who are being released, through a pilot program to help integrate them into society while saving the state money. The catch? The former prisoners work at a prison.
When Ohio officials closed a 240-bed minimum-security satellite facility on the grounds of the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in the fall of 2012, it left a void. Prisoners at the satellite facility had prepared the meals for about 500 prisoners at OSP, the state’s highest security prison, which keeps prisoners confined to their cells 23 hours a day.
The Community Corrections Association, a non-profit organization that runs a halfway house transition program, obtained a contract to fill that void.
Fourteen of Community Corrections’ clients, who are either on probation or in a post-prison transition program, are shuttled by van to work two shifts of food service at OSP. Starting at 4:30 a.m. each day, the Community Corrections workers prepare meals for OSP prisoners; guards then deliver the meals to the prisoners’ cells.
Community Corrections also entered into a contract to perform janitorial services at OSP. That arrangement, which began in September 2012, provides jobs for three Community Corrections clients. None of the jobs, either janitorial or in food service, entail the workers having direct contact with OSP prisoners.
“It gives you a chance to get back on your feet,” said Christopher Guy, a janitor at OSP employed in the Community Corrections program. “It gives us a chance to prove to the community that we have what it takes to re-enter society and be trusted doing it.”
OSP Warden David Bobby, who previously worked at Community Corrections, developed the pilot program. “Sixty days after they’re done with supervision from [Community Corrections], we want them to go and find another position somewhere else,” he said. “Even while they’re here, my expectation is that they continue to pursue other employment.”
On average, participants in the Community Corrections program will work at OSP for six months. “The goal is that these guys come here, get some work experience, earn some money, and go and be productive members of society,” Bobby stated. “We ask the community to hire these ex-offenders, so to do our share, I think it’s only prudent that we do the same thing.”
Those employed in the Community Corrections program at OSP are classified as temporary workers and make $12 to $14 per hour, with 25% of their earnings withheld to cover costs. They keep the remainder of their pay.
“When they leave us, they’re walking out the door with thousands of dollars in their pockets to either set up independent living or to go back to family and loved ones,” said Community Corrections chief operations officer Jeremy Simpson.
When not working at OSP, the Community Corrections clients participate in substance abuse treatment, GED preparation and other self-improvement programs. The state hopes to reduce recidivism through the pilot program – and to save around $1.5 million a year through the closure of the minimum-security satellite facility.
Of course, if the Community Corrections Association was serious about helping released prisoners successfully reintegrate into society, it would help them develop meaningful job skills and find employment outside the prison system, rather than use them as cheap temporary labor at OSP.
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