Dayton Gets Real: Second Chances

DAYTON — People who have served jail or prison time often say their reputation proceeds them and their history is rarely forgotten or forgiven.

As part of our series Dayton Gets Real, News Center 7′s Letitia Perry introduces us to several former inmates who are finding the tools needed to become productive ‘returning citizens.’

Every year, thousands of people come through the court system and then to the Montgomery County Jail. Some are even sent to state and federal prisons for their crimes.

Jseveaughn Vineyard is an ex-offender who admits that he took several wrong turns early on as he was in and out of the Montgomery County Jail and then to prison for two years.

“I got convictions of grand theft to firearms charges. I was still on a rocky road – like I got out of prison, and I was still messing up and stuff,” Vineyard said.

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After several jail stints, Vineyard said when he heard the judge say two years I prison, he was flooded with emotion. First thought? His 3-year-old son who was used to seeing his dad every day.

Also in court, he heard sighs and cries from his family members.

“My mother, my grandmother and my Auntie were there. So, there were a lot of emotions because they were crying,” Vineyard said.

All typical when someone is sentenced to prison – so says – Quinn Howard who facilitates Montgomery County’s re-entry program called The Career Alliance Academy for Returning Citizens.

“When someone does time, their family does that time as well,” Howard said.

More than 600 former inmates have gone through the Career Alliance Academy. It’s a month-long course that consists of 29 workshops, three days a week.

The ‘Returning Citizens’ learn everything from social to life skills to financial literacy, interviewing to family and workplace communication.

Howard said its all essential to making a successful transition back to a productive life after being locked up.

Howard said he’s a returning citizen himself. Years ago, Howard served time in a Texas state prison and when he was released, he returned home to the Dayton area in 1996.

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He held down the same retail job for 9 years, earned a master’s degree, an MBA and applied for a career position that he was more than qualified for.

“I had applied for a job with a major soft drink company. I won’t say who it is, but they turned me down,” Howard said.

They were candid with him and told him that it was because of his criminal background from 10 years prior.

His mission and life’s calling became preparing returning citizens for life on the outside.

January Newport also works with the Career Alliance Program. Substance abuse led to criminal activity to support her habit, which led to jail.

“It was the coming home that was the biggest struggle for me,” Newport said.

She understands why family, friends, landlords and companies are hesitant to trust ex-offenders. But second chances are out there and she’s proof of that.

“Because I didn’t do it right the first time and I think my story shows that people fall down and as many times as you fall down, just get back up and keep going,” Newport said.

Vineyard said, “Besides high school, this is the first thing I’ve actually completed.” She continued, “That’s my goal in life. I just want to help my community. I’m not saying I can change the world. I’m not trying to, but I feel like if I can give to someone what this program gave to me.”

Vineyard is working to refurbish house to help the community. He said his time away was actually a lesson learned. Now, it’s onward and upward toward living the life his loved ones can be proud of.

Montgomery County’s re-entry program is one of a few in the country. Facilitators said based on recidivism rates, it’s working.

According to national numbers, 30 to 40 percent of returning citizens go back to jail. Locally, between 3 and 5 percent of Career Alliance graduates return to lock up.