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ReEntry Stories: Continuing To Share The Stories Of Returned Citizens In The Miami Valley

More than twenty-two thousand people are released from prison every year in Ohio. And when they do re-enter society, what exactly are they up against? This week on WYSO, we begin the second season of ReEntry Stories and hear about the lives of some formerly incarcerated citizens in Ohio.

Project producer Mary Evans is returning to the series, and starting next week, she's going to introduce us to women and men from her community that she's come to understand very well.

"Well, I am a return citizen, and that community that I represent is very important to me," says Evans. "I always told the women that I was incarcerated with whenever I got a chance to let their voices be heard, that I would, and so [with] the opportunity of radio came ReEntry stories to talk about issues that incarcerated people had when they returned to society."

Mary Evans came to WYSO just about three years ago. She had just enrolled at Antioch College and we could tell right away that she was driven to succeed.

"I was working at one point forty hours a week and I took twenty-two credit hours and still made the dean's list and still passed and still had to be a parent. But I mean, those are some of the things we have to do. And I feel like if we can put our time and energy into doing the wrong things that ultimately led up to our incarceration, why can't I put 110 percent into doing the right thing? So if that means I have to work two part time jobs and go to school and still be a parent, and that keeps me out of trouble and never lets me return back to prison. And that's what I'm going to do and it's going to also make me a better person in the long run, make me job market ready and make me a better citizen for not only the whole community entirely, but the community that I represent, the returned community."

In the coming weeks on ReEntry stories, listeners will hear about some of the issues facing returned citizens.

"You're going to hear issues about adequate medical insurance, issues with fair housing, employment issues, issues of just trying to obey all the stipulations and rules that you have to be a return citizen that your parole officer or your probation officer might enforce on you. Just everything that we have to do to continuously be considered normal in society and be accepted in society," says Evans. "We'll also hear about Black Lives Matter protest movement and how that has impacted returning citizens to become activists."

Evan says it's important to hear the stories of returned citizens because there are often misconceptions about people leaving incarceration.

"I think a lot of people think that we come out looking for assistance and that we don't want to work and that we don't want to apply ourselves to be better people for society and to be better people in the community that we represent. And I think with these stories, they get an honest look of how it is to actually be a return citizen, all the things that we have to do just to remain returned."

Talking with other returned citizens has been an eyeopening experience for Evans.

"I found out a lot of things like one, it doesn't matter what socioeconomic status you might come from once you're incarcerated, it's like none of that matters if you're in one class with everyone, because it's like that that mark of being incarcerated is like that scarlet letter. And I didn't realize that it affected a lot of other people the way that it affected me. I feel more close to people that are on my show. A lot of them I hadn't even really met. Like I had I just reached out to them. And it's definitely brought us together, especially myself, closer with these individuals in my community."

ReEntry Stories is created at Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Neenah Ellis is the general manager at WYSO. She began her radio career in high school, working at her parents’ commercial radio station in Valparaiso, Indiana. She came to WYSO in 2009 after 30 years as a radio documentary producer in Washington, D.C. She’ s been a producer for “ All Things Considered” at NPR and has won three Peabody Awards, broadcasting’ s highest honor, for her work. She is also the author of “ If I Live to be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians,” which is based on her radio series about people 100 years of age.