Incarceration to Reentry: Education & Training Pathways in Ohio

This brief, by Wayne Taliaferro and Duy Pham, explains how Ohio is aligning education and training opportunities for people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. This is the third entry in our series “Reconnecting Justice in the States,” which explores coordinated justice, education, and workforce policy and practice at the state level. It is part of CLASP’s continued commitment to leverage criminal justice reform to expand economic opportunity and help achieve racial equity.

Beginning in the 1970s, Ohio’s incarceration trends tracked with the wave of mass incarceration that swept the nation. This was driven by “tough-on-crime” policies rooted in systemic inequalities, and had educational implications for people impacted by the criminal justice system. In the following decades, Ohio shifted investments in correctional education, going from comprehensive programming to narrower job training offerings. As the state began investing more in overall reform strategies, improving educational opportunities and reducing related collateral consequences were also a part of those efforts. Criminal justice reforms have had mixed success overall, but Ohio has made some pioneering efforts in correctional education.

Research shows that access to correctional education and training can boost post-release employability, reduce recidivism, and (by extension) improve stability and mobility for the families and communities most affected. Expanded programming, innovate use of technology, and improved connections to the labor market are a testament to Ohio’s continued efforts to achieve these outcomes. Additionally, the state’s initial success with Second Chance Pell—a partnership with Ashland University—may reignite momentum for state investment in postsecondary education for people in prison. By using evidence to innovate and inform decisions, collaborating across agencies, and leveraging federal resources, Ohio has better aligned programming aimed at improving successful reentry. Still, work remains to dismantle larger systemic challenges and pipelines to prison, which are rooted in racial and economic inequality.

Leveraging the power of federal, state, and local policies and investments is essential for systemic reform. In a time of federal cuts, uncertain state political and budget climates, and changing postsecondary and workforce trends, it’s essential that people involved in the criminal justice system are part of the economic success conversation. Ohio’s investment and alignment across education, workforce, and justice systems, alongside other reform movements, is a step in the right direction.