Challenges for former prisoners


Jennifer Nail, the reentry coordinator for the Cincinnati region of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, spoke at a meeting Wednesday of the Highland County Prevention and Recovery Coalition about her role in helping formerly incarcerated adults return to the community.

She said the process can be extremely challenging, and a setback with just one aspect of the reentry can stop all of the progress in the transition.

“For a long time DRC defined reentry as going home to stay, but if we want to be formal it’s a system of governance that surrounds the return of incarcerated adults to the community following a period of incarceration which is a lot of words to say not very much,” said Nail. “What that definition does is define reentry almost by failure because it’s focused heavily on recidivism and rules, and we know that reentry doesn’t manifest that way.”

She said there is not a set checklist that a person can accomplish to complete the reentry process. “It is ongoing, and we know that it is very frequently chaotic,” she said.

Her clients are faced with numerous challenges and obstacles in their effort to return to society. “Very frequently the day that they return home to the community they are welcomed home with a party or gathering that involves drugs or alcohol, so recovery issues may present themselves from the very first day that they are home,” said Nail.

“Clients are also going to have obligations with social services — getting ID issues settled, applying for benefits, resolving child support issues that may have worsened during incarceration, but all of those things require appointments, phone calls, travel around the city, and all are equally important,” she said.

She said her clients often believe that if they can find a find a job everything else will fall into place, but she said that is not the case. “If somebody is not work ready, they’re not likely to keep that job, and that forward progress is going to be lost,” said Nail. “The landlords want to get paid on time, and if I’m honest this is optimistic because it assumes there is a landlord that is willing to rent to somebody with that felony background.”

Nail said her office works to give her clients the connections and tools to be able to respond the challenges of reentry. “That might be by referrals to a community based agency that can help them navigate these things or helping them use the skills learned in institutional programming about problem solving and social skills,” she said.

There are eight reentry coordinators around the state. “We essentially are the bridge between parole, prison and the community,” said Nail.

Nail said the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has an overall mission to reduce recidivism, but her office has a more specific mission. “The reentry office’s mission is to connect individuals with communities, programs and services, and our vision is to facilitate successful reintegration for individuals,” she said. “We feel strongly that those two things serve ODRC’s larger goals.”

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

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