Re-entry is a process designed to reunite ex-offenders with the community.
Although this process begins at the jail or prison, successful implementation requires coordination and collaboration of many services beyond prison walls. In addition to obvious legal services, some additional support services needed include education, health, employment, vocation, food, housing, family reunification, and mental health.
Re-entry is a challenging task. The challenge is increased for the re-entry of ex-offenders suffering with mental health illnesses. However, this reality validates the work of the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mental Illness in the Courts (ACMIC) and Reentry Sub-Committee. The ACMIC and Reentry
Sub-Committee brings together advocates who seek to reduce and/or eliminate re-entry barriers. Barriers are addressed through public awareness leading to policy changes.
In March 2010, a Lima Facility inmate was scheduled for release to return home to his family in Montgomery, Alabama. Lima Facility MH Manager, James LaPoint recognized that it would be best for the inmate to be accompanied by an escort. The request to assist with the re-entry process made its way to the ACMIC and Re-entry Sub-Committee.
Betsy Johnson of NAMI immediately launched a search for an escort. This individual would be responsible for riding the Greyhound bus with the newly released inmate, traveling from Lima, Ohio to Montgomery, Alabama (with stops in Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Birmingham, Alabama). In addition to being a travel buddy, the escort would also be required to administer medication, purchase and provide meals, and ensure the inmate’s safe arrival home.
When I received notification of the request, I was immediately interested. A few people responded, but fewer volunteered. As a result of being a community leader and my participation with the ACMIC and Re-entry Sub-Committee, I knew this request was unique and important. I didn’t want this moment to pass; I wanted the inmate to have a head start to their future by receiving the necessary help. I had the opportunity to talk
with Mr. LaPoint and the family of the inmate prior to the journey.
I applaud MH Manager LaPoint for recognizing the limitations of the inmate. He knew that travel assistance was warranted and took action to make sure the need was met. I also applaud the ACMIC and Re-entry Sub-Committee for accepting this challenge. Several agencies were involved in the planning of this project. Those individuals were not only aware of the problem, but willing to work together to create a timely, relevant solution.
Six hundred sixty miles later, the inmate was safely returned to his family. I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in the re-entry process of someone who paid his debt to society, is now reunited with family, and off to a great start on the road to reintegration.