Helping ex-convicts rebuild their lives

(Cleveland) - The Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry and community partners will hold their second annual Reentry Awareness Week to highlight the barriers individuals face after incarceration and opportunities that can improve their outcomes for a successful reentry and reduced recidivism. A series of events will be held from Monday, April 22nd to Saturday, April 27th.

“I am pleased to be part of this collaborative and supportive partnership that is helping to give returning citizens the opportunity to successfully rejoin the community,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “I thank the County employees and our community partners who have worked hard to bring these events to our community so that prisoners who have paid their dues have a real chance to succeed.”

“Every year thousands of individuals return to Cuyahoga County from local jails and state and federal prisons,” said Crystal Bryant, Director of the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry. “These individuals face numerous barriers upon their reentry because of their criminal backgrounds and the stigma of having a criminal record. Highlighting these barriers will increase the community’s awareness of how difficult it is for a person to transition back into society and how the county and region can create opportunities for these individuals to grow and thrive.”

The Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry is a funder for direct services provided to returning citizens and a coordinating agency for reentry resources and services across the county. As a coordinating agency, the office is as a convener and a collaborator with other program providers and public and private entities working with returning citizens.

Reentry Week partners include:

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, the Cleveland Public Library, Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), Jump Start, Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, Cuyahoga Community College Veterans Initiative, Forest City Brewery, Greenbridge Commons, Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute, Towards Employment, The North Star Reentry Resource Center, Enterprise Community Partners, The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland, and The Word Church.

Reentry Awareness Week Events:

Tuesday, April 23rd

A Panel Discussion on Research-Based Efforts in Reentry

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Location: Forest City Brewery, 2135 Columbus Rd, Cleveland, OH, 44113

Enterprise Community Partners is holding a moderated panel on current reentry research efforts. Panelists include Dr. David Hussey from Case Western Reserve University; Mr. Damian Calvert from the City of Cleveland; Ms. Bethia Burke from The Fund for our Economic Future, and Mr. Phil Metres, Professor, John Carroll University, as the moderator. Free event, RSVP required:

Wednesday, April 24th

Facing Housing Discrimination with a Criminal Background

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Location: Greenbridge Commons, 7515 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, 44103

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research, Enterprise Community Partners, and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland are hosting a training and luncheon event to help individuals with criminal backgrounds deal with housing discrimination. This workshop is designed for residents, advocates and community agency workers. Participants will learn how to appeal denials of clients’ subsidized housing applications based upon clients’ criminal background and use fair housing law to improve client outcomes and access to housing. Continuing Education Units for social workers and counselors are available. Free event, RSVP required:

Wednesday, April 24th

Reentry Restaurant Bus Tour

Time: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (30 minutes per stop)

Location: Start and End at Swerve Bar and Grill, 20126 Chagrin Blvd., Shaker Heights, OH

The Office of Reentry in partnership with Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute is hosting a tour for participants to taste and purchase local cuisine from businesses owned and operated by returning citizens. Free event, RSVP required at (216) 698-3437.

Thursday, April 25th

“How to Start a Business as a Restored Citizen”

Time: 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Location: Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, 1962 Stokes Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44106

The Office of Reentry, the Cleveland Public Library, Jump Start, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, ECDI and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland are sponsoring a full-day small business workshop for returning citizens. The workshop will include strategic business planning, marketing strategy and development, financial literacy and more. Space is available for 80 registrants through Eventbrite. Free event, RSVP required:

Friday, April 26th

Third Annual Breaking Down Barriers Hiring Event

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Oriana House Hough Center, 6000 Hough Ave., Cleveland, OH 44103

Cuyahoga Community College, the Northeast Ohio VA Healthcare System, North Star Recovery Resource Center, West Side Catholic Center, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio, Catholic Charities, Ohio Means Job, and the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry are planning an employment and resource fair for individuals with barriers to employment. Employers will offer on-site interviews and community partners will have information on record sealing, the work opportunity tax credit, federal bonding and employment training programs. Call 216-881-5440 for more information.

Saturday, April 27th

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 100 Experience

Time: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Location: 50 Public Square, Cleveland, OH, 44113

Bail & Art Talk with Joe Sharp. The ACLU will be celebrating its 100th anniversary during the last full week of April. As part of this celebration, there will be an art exhibition at 50 Public Square showcasing the artwork of Joe Sharp, a formerly incarcerated person who depicts issues regarding bail and the criminal justice system. Free event, RSVP required:

For more information about the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry and Reentry Awareness Week, please visit

(Photos by Ken Robinson/WTAM)

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