Youngstown Jail inmates make their mark on graduation day | News, Sports, Jobs


Jesse Driver III, left, holds his degrees on Tuesday as Ashland University’s Virginia Maher discusses Driver’s educational accomplishments while a prisoner at the Northeast Correctional Center in Ohio, East Ward of Youngstown. At right is Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and private prison officials. …Staff photo by Ed Runyan

YOUNGSTOWN — As he has done in the past, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown addressed inmates at the private correctional facility in Northeast Ohio on Tuesday, this time congratulating them on graduating from college. high school equivalency, an Ashland University business education certificate, or associate degrees, and to encourage them to keep moving in a positive way.

“Your backgrounds are no different than mine – raised in the city of Youngstown, Youngstown public education, single parent home. My dad has been in and out of prison most of my life.

“I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Youngstown State University. So you don’t have to be your yesterday. You can definitely be your future,” he said.

“I spent a lot of time behind prison walls visiting my father. The best time I had a relationship with my dad was when he was in prison. you want to know why? He didn’t miss a birthday. He didn’t miss Christmas.

Brown asked, and inmates said they still send artwork to their families. Brown said he still had the ones his father sent home.

“When you share this with your children, they appreciate it. I enjoyed it more than anything because it was my time to connect with my dad. During that time, I really got to see his heart,” he said. “Believe in what you give and what you send. You have to keep putting your heart into it.

The mayor said he had people “who invested my life while my father was in prison”. One was an older gentleman who was “the community gardener, who taught me how to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. He looked and saw that my father was not in my life.

Another, “Miss Doretha, took care of the neighborhood,” he said. “I think Miss Dorethas is missed in the world because she sat on her front porch. Much of the world today we sit on our back porch. We sit on our patio.

Mr. Johnson of the Buckeye Elks Youth Drum and Bugle Corps “taught us to respect each other, to be friends with each other, but he really taught us to work as a team.

“My uncle taught me an honest day’s work and an honest salary,” he said.

Brown said each of the graduates “has the opportunity to be all of those individuals, but I want you to find the next generation, to speak to the next generation.

“(Don’t) hide your story because you could be the next Mr. Noble, the Mr. Johnson, my uncle, who has the ability to influence the life of a young person,” he said.

As the eight men received their high school equivalency diplomas and 12 men received their business administration certificates from Ashland University, many family members sat in chairs nearby for the congratulate. Later on Tuesday, another 18 men received certificates for earning masonry certificates after learning to work as brick and block setters.

The prison houses 105 students working on their high school equivalency diplomas and 28 taking classes at Ashland University. The prison has had such a program since 2012, said Natalie Grant, supervisor of instructors at the Northeast Correctional Center in Ohio.

Grant said an incarcerated person who graduates from high school equivalency is 43% less likely to return to prison. “It’s a big deal,” she said of the eight men who earned their equivalency degrees.

Virginia Maher, site director for Ashland University, said students taking Ashland courses should apply for student financial aid just like any other student would. The state prison system, called the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, pays for the other types of courses offered.

One of the men recognized at the graduation was Jesse Driver III, who earned an associate’s degree in business administration, despite having lost his mother and father in recent years.

He also went to the parole board in 2020, which ordered him to stay in prison for another 10 years. “I lose my mom six months later, and I turn around and lose my dad a year later to COVID. Throughout this journey, however, I have remained focused and kept my eyes on the prize, which is this degree,” he said.

“When I enrolled in college, my dad was the happiest person ever, so I knew I had to finish this for him and for me. I’m really proud of that,” he said. he declares.

Driver is also working on his bachelor’s degree in a pilot program at Ashland University, Maher said.

Maher works full-time at NEOCC. The program includes live classroom instruction, but much of the instruction takes place on inmate tablet computers.

The digital portion of the course is similar to what students outside of prison receive, except inmates don’t have internet access, Maher said. Because it was digital, classes continued during COVID-19, she said.

NEOCC is owned by CoreCivic Corporation and houses inmates from the state prison system and the US Marshals Service.

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