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Eastside Program Boasts Success With Former Inmates Re-Entering Job Force

It’s estimated over 95 percent of the current prison population nationwide will be released at some time. The Obama administration also wants to reduce prison time for those who have committed non-violent crimes.

Those getting out will need help to become part of society again.  Jobs programs can help.  One in Columbus is part of what’s called Alvis House.

“I was noticing on your application that you were convicted of a felony.  Can you  explain that for me?”   

Inside the Alvis House on Bryden Road, a mock job interview helps a former inmate answer tough questions.

“I made some mistakes when I was younger, and I’ve never not had a job.  And I’m sitting here trying to better my life.”

Alvis House provides reentry programs for people who have committed crimes and done their time.  The non-profit organization serves 7,000 men and women each year who are ready to be productive again in their lives.  President and CEO, Denise Robinson says each client’s needs are assessed.

“A lot of individualized therapy and treatment, it seems to work a lot better," said Robinson

Robinson says clients get evaluated for what jobs suit them.  They will work with a case manager to pinpoint career options. And they will be supported so they can be successful in keeping a job.

“You can’t forget that everyone who comes through our doors is a person too.  Typically it’s fears and misconceptions that they’re going to rob me, they’re going to rape me, they’re going to do this to me, and that’s not the case.  You know, they’ve paid their debt to society," said Robinson.

30 year old Troy Holland drills screws into a kitchen cabinet.  He’s a fulltime maintenance worker.  After learning job skills such as resume writing and interviewing, through the jobs program, Holland got hired at Alvis House.

Holland served 7 years in a Florida prison for passing bad checks.  

“It was challenging, but overall I think it did me good because I went in with the mindset that I knew I didn’t want to go back in," said Holland.

Holland moved to Columbus just days after getting out of prison last July. Some of his family members had already relocated here.  This year, Holland got engaged and the couple is expecting a baby.  His two older children which he can now support live in Florida.

“Everything has been great so far, they have a lot of job opportunities and different types of programs I mean the city in itself, I just love it," said Holland.

Denise Robinson with Alvis House says most of the clients like Holland will not be going back to prison. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction found the non-profit has a lower recidivism rate than the state at 21% versus 27%.  The national average is 44%.

“I think that when people have committed a non-violent crime and they’ve paid their dues it’s time to get out, it’s time to start giving back to the community.  It’s time to pay your own taxes.  It’s time for you to get a job.  It’s time for you to take care of your own children," said Robinson.

Robinson says Alvis House also started a program for the children affected by a parent’s incarceration.  The goal is to make sure they don’t get locked up later.       

A $1.3 million grant from the Department of Labor will also be used to expand job search services.

“The way that this program is going to be specialized in really looking at not only getting our clients employed but also getting them the skills to taking them to the next level from survivor jobs to more jobs that they’re being trained and getting certified in," said Robinson.

Holland says while he enjoys his maintenance job, in 10 years his dream is to run his own restaurant or a food truck.  It’s a dream that he can nurture while he takes on-line business management courses.

“For me I’ll turn anything negative into a positive," said Holland.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.