September 23, 2014

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Sen. Portman urges Obama to expand Second Chance Act

Christopher Jackson shows U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, the room in which inmates write and compose resumes and job search for when they are able to leave prison at the Grafton Correctional Institute on Monday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Christopher Jackson shows U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, the room in which inmates write and compose resumes and job search for when they are able to leave prison at the Grafton Correctional Institute on Monday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

GRAFTON — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, is hoping that correctional institutions, as well as President Barack Obama, will take note of the policies in place at the Grafton Reintegration Center.

Portman touted the center during a visit there Monday to highlight his legislation in support of ex-offenders, reforming prisons and reducing crime. He is working to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, legislation that he authored with the late Cleveland Democrat, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, which passed into law in 2008.

The Second Chance Act aims to reduce prison costs by decreasing recidivism — something that Grafton Reintegration Center has excelled at, according to Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Ohio’s recidivism rate —the rate at which released inmates commit another crime — is approximately 28 percent, well below the national average of 44 percent, said Mohr. He attributed the low rate to innovative procedures in place at Ohio prisons, such as the Grafton Reintegration Center, which allows prisoners to work on community service projects, learn trades and apply for jobs while behind bars.

Oliver Thomas shows  Portman the driving simulator at the Grafton Correctional Institute on Monday.

Oliver Thomas shows Portman the driving simulator at the Grafton Correctional Institute on Monday.

Mohr said the programs give inmates an easier transition into life outside of the prison system.

“We need to recognize that these folks are human beings. … Watch what people do when people turn these folks down for jobs, when it becomes so difficult for these people to find housing. We really have developed a second class of citizens, often that people think of as less than human beings,” he said. “The thought here is, when people come into prison, we ought to have a very tangible ladder for them to move up so that they’re ready to go back into the community.”

Lameer Kidd, an inmate at the center, said he is hoping to find a job in videography when he is released. He said several former inmates have found jobs due to the education and apprenticeship programs at Grafton Reintegration Center, in which inmates can earn licenses and study college-level classes.

“Everything that we learn here, we can use for employable skills… All I have to do is get out the gate,” he said.

Kidd said he appreciated Portman’s visit, and the steps that the senator is taking to ensure that the inmates receive an education.

“I think that’s important and encouraging to the guys here, because it seems like someone’s paying attention to what we’re trying to do here, and that would translate out there. That’s what the bottom line is, getting jobs,” he said.

The Second Chance Act has been integral in the operations at the Grafton Reintegration Center, according to Mohr.

The Second Chance Act of 2013 would reauthorize the law for five years and would require periodic audits of grantees to ensure federal money is well spent.

After a tour of the facilities, Portman said Grafton Reintegration Center is a prime example of a successful prison program.

“I was really impressed. I think that this is a program that is doing all of the right things in terms of preparing inmates for what they’re going to face when they get out,” he said.

Portman said he spoke to Obama on Monday and told him about the programs at the Grafton Reintegration Center and North Star Neighborhood Re-entry in Cleveland, which he visited earlier in the day.

Portman said Obama indicated he was supportive of the Second Chance Act of 2013.

“My hope is that this will become a model for other prisons as well, not just in Ohio, but nationally,” Portman said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.


  • Mark B

    Something needs to be done about Felonies on ones record. Police are all to eager to find a way to make a felony charge, that charge will follow that person for life and hence prevent them from gaining a good job. If the person has done his time and not commited another felony in a certain peroid of time than that felony should be removed from ones record , like points fall off of ones driving record. Labeling someone as a felon for the rest of their lives is detremental to society , as it stands today , even if you are reformed you are still continued to be punished. Without the ability to find a good job leave many no other choice but to re-offend to support themselves and family.

    • Brian_Reinhardt

      I agree, something needs to be done about felonies on people’s records.

      TRY NOT GETTING THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE…

      The crime you committed to earn that felony will follow the VICTIM all their life, criminals and bleeding heart idi0ts like Portman need to realize that fact and do more to assist victims not criminals.

      The photo in this story is disturbing to me. We have a sitting senator “shucking it up” with a criminal and they’re all just smiling away.

      You say “labeling someone as a felon” is a detriment to society. I say the bigger detriment is criminals and people like you who would coddle them.

      Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on programs to help criminals, how about helping hard working HONEST people instead.

      Portman’s Cleveland office number is: Phone: 216-522-7095. His Cincinnati number is: Phone: 513-684-3265. Give him a call if you would rather have him support victims of crime instead of criminals.

      • Mark B

        So you are saying that it is better to continue to label them as Felons, now they can not obtain sustainable employment and continue down the road of crime? Would it not be better to give them a second chance, seeing that they have paid for their crime and let them be a productive member of society, or leave them no choice but to become a career criminal costing everyone more in the long run .

        • John Davidson

          Most people get a slap on the wrist the first time so more than likely those confined to a correctional institute have committed several felonies. I also find it hard to believe that most people are caught the first time they commit a felony. They would have to be the most unlucky criminals in the world.

        • Brian_Reinhardt

          Why don’t you get a clue…I’m not labeling anything. THEY’RE LABELING THEMSELVES.

          That FACT that they committed a crime and were convicted should not be hidden from the public EVER and if an employer CHOOSES to not hire them, it should be their choice.

          Also, we should NEVER EVER use public funds to assist convicted felons do ANYTHING until every victim of crime is fully compensated for what was done to them.

    • Michael A. Figueroa

      Gee, let’s try this novel idea: DON’T COMMIT A FELONY.

  • Michael A. Figueroa

    How ironic it is that the very people (Republicans) that pushed the whole “tough on crime” b.s. and made it an election issue again and again now are all about second chances now that they realize how expensive it is to incarcerate of those inmates.