U.S. Magistrate Michael Newman is proud of his district's Reentry Court, calling it one of the best in the nation alongside Minneapolis. Ten more ex-convicts graduated November 9, 2017, from the program that began in 2012 and continues to see a drop in recidivism.
Newman and other judges designed the program to keep recently released prisoners out of jail by giving them the help they need to succeed. It offers assistance not only with employment but with health insurance, driver's license reinstatement, child support payment plans, housing, parenting classes and more.
Cedric Maxwell Sr. was skeptical of Reentry Court but the voluntary program promised things he needed. "The re-entry program gave me the perspective to face these things that I've never faced that I didn't have the courage to face," he said, like child support. In the beginning he could only pay $20 a month but it was enough. He says he didn't want to run from the system that may have landed him back in jail.
Before entering the program Maxwell served two years for drug trafficking. Kristin Keyer was his supervising probation officer. "If you were to hold his record at the top of the federal building and let go of it, it would hit the ground and still have more paper and I thought 'oh my goodness' this is a huge challenge."
But she says, "He trusted us and he let us help him."
Maxwell and others must complete the program within twelve months, remain free of substance abuse, and show up to court once a month for a progress report. During that time they have to accumulate 40 points to attain goals set up by the court. If they do it, the ex-cons get 18 months off their supervised release.
Jon Updyke is one of those who helped Maxwell. He's a life coach with Life Services, a division of CareSource. In Reentry Court Updyke is a mentor and not only helps former prisoners go to school, build resumes and find a job but find food, clothing and shelter. He says, "I just gleam when I see those guys. Because they walk into the courtroom, walk into Reentry, smiling from ear to ear when before they were completely closed off."
CareSource is one of many volunteer partners. The others include Goodwill Easter Seals of Miami Valley, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Montgomery County Office of Ex-Offender Reentry, The United States Attorney's Office, and the Federal Public Defender Office.
Judge Newman expects the program to be a continued success. He says the recently released prisoners taking part are increasingly getting competitive with it saying, "Look I've stayed off drugs longer than you have. I've got a better job than you have. I've reconnected with my daughter, my children, my family."