GRAFTON, Ohio — For the last couple of years, the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton has transitioned into taking in parole violators from all 88 counties in Ohio.
Offenders can be there for a week to a maximum of up to 270 days.
For Warden Jennifer Gillece Black, who has been at LCI since 2021, the goal is now to help transition people back into the community in a meaningful way.
“It all depends on the individual but it's also about providing the opportunity,” Black said. The prison's goal is to also provide access along with that opportunity.
LCI has teamed up with the Department of Jobs and Family Services to create a new One Stop Center at the prison. A ribbon cutting is taking place on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
The prison library is now outfitted with computers, laptops, books and TV screens for virtual interviews. Before and after photos show the months of work that went into it.
“It’s important for the violators, when they go back into society, to have that head start,” said Ashley Stenroos, an administrative professional the warden credits with getting the center started and certified. “Sometimes it can be intimidating for people not knowing where to go to look for a job, worry about how they’re going to afford things.”
We sat down with two inmates who have several years left on their sentences to ask about the impact of having a job lined up when they leave prison. Both are mentors and tutors at the prison.
“I hope they get a sense that they’re worth something — that you can provide for your family,” inmate Reginal said.
“And at first you may not have that job you want to make a career out of, but we gotta start somewhere,” added inmate Brian.
At the One Stop Center, which is available to any offender, they will start with mock interviews, resume writing and training workshops. Organizations will also be coming in to link them up with jobs before they leave.
The challenge they’re expecting, Black said, is not having enough resources outside prison walls to meet the need.
“With serving all 88 counties, we have very good partnerships with Northern Ohio,” she said. “I’m trying to seek organizations that are actually connected throughout the entire state.”
One organization that has been very involved and helpful is Goodwill Industries, Black said.
With more than a thousand inmates coming in and out of these prison walls, Black’s ultimate hope is that they see fewer people returning on parole violations.
She believes the One Stop Center is a step toward success.
“There’s a lot of activities that go on in the institution that people in the community don’t hear about,” she said. “There is good that goes on and there are lives that do change.”