REUNITE-Ohio program helps inmates, families

LEAVITTSBURG — Social worker Bonnie Rich says female inmates should have more than a little money and a bus ticket in their pocket when released from state prison.

Women who are preparing for release from prisons such as the Trumbull Correctional Institution here have “wants, desires and needs,” said Rich, of Hubbard.

Rich is a social worker with the Greater Youngstown Point on Wick Avenue in Youngstown. Among its social programs, the organization works to help male and female inmates both before and after they are released to have productive lives in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The more fortunate ones will have a family that is willing to help them change their lives until they can become self-sufficient, Rich said.

Rich works for Point’s REUNITE-Ohio, an acronym for Reintegrating Ex-offenders Under New Initiatives Through Empowerment.

Michael J. James, Point executive director, explained that REUNITE is a group of agencies working to help offenders and their families, including the children.

Its goals are to reduce recidivism, lower the risk of the offender’s children being incarcerated and reunite and strengthen family relationships that have been strained by the offender’s time in prison.

James points to the success of the program. Since last August, 30 to 35 people have participated with only one returning to prison.

REUNITE identifies those who want to participate within six months before release, or six months after. It looks to the Adult Parole Authority for referrals.

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