Reentry program helps inmates stay on track after prision

By Valerie Urbanik -

Looking to transition from prison to life on the outside, about 15 inmates get held every Monday from the Oberlin Salvation Army.

The group’s local unit created the “49-9 Project” three years ago, allowing director Mark Fahringer to offer classes to convicts at the Grafton Correctional Institution.

U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey, Oberlin Municipal Court judge Thomas Januzzi, and Lorain County sheriff’s Lt. Jim Gordon met with Salvation Army officials Feb. 16 in Oberlin to talk about the reentry program, what’s next for it, and to see whether more officials want to jump in and help.

The 49-9 Project directories provide inmates with information on what to do after released from prison, child care services, thrift stores, drop-in centers, food pantries, employment, health and dental care, and housing.

Fahringer said the directories are in 22 state facilities, including jails and treatment facilities.

“It’s really making the transition easier for these people,” said Oberlin Salvation Army assistant Stephanie Walker. “We’re helping them in every aspect.”

Fahringer said the Huron County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to him about customizing the directory for other locales and talking to officials about the program.

“Other than Cuyahoga County, pretty much no one in the state has this,” he said of the reentry program.

Gordon said the directory allows inmates to develop a plan, which in turn helps them get back on their feet.

The 12-week course does not sugar-coat how difficult it will be for prisoners when they are released, said Fahringer. “We want them to look past that and know they are going to make it,” he said.

Andy Junn, Salvation Army development director for Northeast Ohio, said the class is intended to show inmates that there are people ready to offer help at every single step.

Inmates have expressed interest in creating a support group for when they leave prison and to learn what strategies work, which do not, and who’s hiring, Fahringer said.

“We want to help people coming out of prison and have the classes to help people get out of prison,” he said. “We want to stick with these people as long as it takes to help them succeed.”

The News-Tribune can be reached at 440-775-1611.

By Valerie Urbanik