Cleveland EZ-Based Business Keeps Ex-Offenders Out of Prison
Cleveland, Ohio, EZ
As thousands of former prison inmates return to Cuyahoga County, Ohio-most of whom will make their homes within the Cleveland EZ-one EZ-based business is working to reduce recidivism by integrating training, education, support services, and employment. More than 20,000 inmates were released from Ohio's State correctional facilities in 2003, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC). Many of these ex-offenders faced obstacles such as overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol, locating adequate housing, and finding jobs.
In an effort to end the cycle of prison release and readmission, Community Re-entry, Inc., gives a second chance to those who need it through the SAVIP (Save a Very Important Person) program. SAVIP was developed to aid former felons living in the Cleveland EZ. Since 2001 the Cleveland EZ has obligated more than $1.3 million in grant funds to the SAVIP program.
For Victoria Lynne Berry, SAVIP was her saving grace. Having labeled herself the black sheep of her family, this 30-year-old found herself confined within the criminal justice system on four occasions-primarily due to her involvement with drugs and alcohol. "I was doing all right until crack came to town," said Berry. That was when she lost control of her life and alienated her family. She lost 18 years to drugs and alcohol abuse. In August 2002 Berry made the decision to turn away from her destructive lifestyle. That's when she came to Community Reentry and enrolled in the SAVIP program.
Under the SAVIP program, Berry returned to Cuyahoga Community College to complete her associate's degree while also working in a subsidized position with the Famicos Foundation. Impressed with her personality and work ethic, Berry's employer offered her a full-time position as a community organizer and outreach coordinator.
Now, in addition to working full-time, Berry voluntarily teaches computer literacy classes. She made the dean's list as an undergraduate and has begun giving back to the community she took for granted and drained of resources while an addict.
For more information on the programs of the Cleveland EZ, contact Anthony Houston, director, at (216) 664-3410.