RED! Columnist De’Ron Smith Speaks at Youth Summit
June 2008

RED! columnist, author, speaker, and intervention consultant, De’Ron Smith, recently spoke to 126 youths at a major Youth Summit sponsored by Mercy Franciscan Health Organization in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The summit provided a variety of educational workshops, food, and interaction for students ranging from 5th grade to high school senior. A key goal of the summit was to connect with students before their summer break and impress upon them to make right, positive decisions during summer."

The summit gave students something real to think about," Smith says. "The kids were exposed to real life issues such as self-esteem problems, the need to make positive choices, and the need to understand how their environment affects their everyday lives," Smith says. "These areas are constantly something they are confronting."

The summit consisted of workshop leaders from the fields of foster care and the Hamilton County probation department, as well as players from the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team who encouraged the youths to create positive goals and work hard toward completing them.

Smith, whose memoir Innocence of a Child, is currently in its third printing, was one of several significant speakers addressing many of those issues. He said he often started out each of his three sessions by asking the youths, “Where are you going with your life?” Smith said that his series of questions, when speaking with youths, is designed to get them to open up and eventually understand that they do have the power to make positive, healthy choices.

“I’ll often draw off of my memoir because it totally lays it out there for these younger students,” he says. “They don’t want to go through what I went through. I went through the pains of making poor decisions, and it landed me in the worse places – like jail and prison."

Smith combines his inspirational and motivational speaking agenda with a professional intervention program, in which he visits and consults with many students and parents around the country.

For more information on Smith’s projects, visit

Higher Ground Ministry
by Darryl Reed
June 2008

Many individuals have experienced – and overcome – some manner of addiction in their lives. It could be as serious as drugs, alcohol, or gambling, or as seemingly benign as fast food, video games, or caffeine. Still, many experience addictive-compulsive behavior, and often, as an addiction continues, it may get out of hand to the point where one feels that he or she needs to get his or her fix on a regular basis.

A new recovery and renewal support group in Cincinnati, Ohio provides help to any and all addictions, and its solution is simple: Christ and other people.

Higher Ground Ministry is a Christ-centered support group. The Cincinnati branch was started in February 2006 by Gerry Trennepohl. It exists for the individual affected by addiction or for a friend or family member that may be victimized by addiction.

Yet it is not your traditional support group, in more than one way.

Most notably, Christ is at the root of Higher Ground Ministry’s recovery and renewal process. The mission statement of Higher Ground Ministry states that they believe the only true way to stop a hurtful addiction is by a relationship with God through Christ. The program is based on the belief that addictive behaviors are sinful, habits that people develop to deal with their troubles in life.

However, Higher Ground Ministry doesn’t just cater to drug or alcohol addiction. The other thing that sets them apart from other support groups is that they want to help people with any addiction.

Trennepohl believes the most common addictions are drugs, food, and sex – what he calls The Big Three – and adds that anything that prevents us from acting and interacting with people normally can be an addiction.Trennepohl related to me his own personal story of addiction. Growing up, he was afraid to talk to girls, but found that, when he drank, he was able to speak freely. He says it became a negative pattern of behavior until God intervened.

“I was just lucky,” Trennepohl said. “I was blessed coming into this denomination.”

The denomination he speaks of is the Christ Fellowship Church, out of which he started the ministry. There are other Higher Ground Ministry facilities around the country, with the national headquarters located in Seymour, Connecticut. However, there were no branches outside of the New England region until Trennepohl started one in Cincinnati.

The idea to do so stemmed from an occurrence many years prior, involving another member of the Christ Fellowship Church. The individual worked at a maintenance lot next to River City Correctional Center. He got in touch with the chaplain to start a Bible Study group, became a certified chaplain himself, and met with about 10 people that started going to church.

I attended a couple of Higher Ground Ministry meetings late in 2006. It is a small group – only two or three individuals have been meeting each week – but a very supportive and friendly environment, as I found during my visits. I wasn’t even a regular member, but was welcomed warmly by everyone I met.

Every meeting opens with a prayer, asking God for a blessing on those in attendance and that those seeking help will come to them. The prayer is followed by a supportive and encouraging reading that references appropriate scripture passages, and a discussion.

Following the discussion is a relaxed period during which attendees can talk about whatever issues and events, good and bad, are happening in their lives. The meeting closes with a prayer, again asking God to bless those in attendance and to help with any issues they may be having, and, of course, to further their process on the path to ending their addiction. 

“Church is the vehicle Jesus has given us to support each other and grow,” says Trennepohl.  “People need people.”

Higher Ground Ministry meets at the Nathaniel Greene Lodge, 6394 Wesselman Road in Cincinnati, Ohio. Meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 7:00 to 8:30 P.M.  For more information, contact Gerry Trennepohl at (513) 467-0756, or visit Higher Ground Ministry’s website,


New Documentary Films Showcase The Psychology of Incarceration
June 2008

The short documentary film, “Jobs, Not Jail,” will be released and available for purchase in early summer, 2008.

RED! will announce its arrival and post information on on how to obtain a copy of the DVD documentary.

Filmed and produced by Rasheed Jihad and William Feagins of High Impact Design, the short film focuses, in an urgent and original manner, on providing individuals re-entering society with the knowledge and tools necessary for best finding a job once released from incarceration. Emphasized in the film is the understanding how one’s thought process and positive choices can most influence or affect his or her desire for a job.

“This film engages individuals particularly re-entering in a way that most discussions about finding jobs once released from incarceration do not,” Osiris says. “It’s a very different approach to this critical time in a formerly incarcerated individual’s life.”

Two other films being produced by Jihad and Feagins to enrich The Psychology of Incarceration teaching and training are also slated for release in 2008. The instructional film, “Five Steps to Freedom,” will involve addressing the reality that freedom is a choice, while the forthcoming short film, “The Power of Forgiveness,” will allow viewers to more intimately understand the liberating power of forgiveness. The focus in this film will allow viewers to work interactively – to participate – in a process toward gaining power in forgiving.

Each of these documentary films will be available for purchase on DVD format. Continue to check RED! for updates on all of these films and their availability.


Blueprint for Success
June 2008

The program, Blueprint for Success, a vocational program in Cincinnati, Ohio that assists adults in improving job skills and in finding skill-trade employment, has achieved several successful tasks in 2008 and continues to make much progress toward helping individuals develop and attain personal goals, according to Vada Lawrence of Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency (CHCCAA) and Re-entry Coalition member.

Individuals 18-30 years old are eligible to apply to the program. Blueprint for Success also extends its program to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Recently, 33 students graduated from Blueprint for Success. Seven of those students passed the GED exam. Two students were placed with the Bearcreek Capital project at Kenwood Towne Center. Ten students are enrolling in the carpenter’s union in Monroe, Ohio in order to apply for carpentry apprenticeship training. Numerous local businesses are currently participating in job placement, including Messer Construction, Turner Construction, Cleveland Construction, and ACI.

In June, 2008, Blueprint for Success will offer a new class in skill training, job awareness, and job placement.


GO Cincinnati
June 2008

GO Cincinnati, a study-initiative in Cincinnati, Ohio designed to stimulate job growth and employment opportunities, plans to target various industries and communities where hopeful economic and workforce development can occur.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory was instrumental in creating and launching GO Cincinnati.

Formerly incarcerated individuals planning to seek work in any of GO Cincinnati’s targets locations must be occupationally trained to take advantage of future job openings.

However, there is concern among members of the Hamilton County (Ohio) Re-entry Coalition as to whether future jobs among major construction projects in the area, for example, will actually be available to formerly incarcerated individuals.

One possibility for jobs which formerly incarcerated individuals might be eligible for involve the Banks Project. Re-entry Coalition member M. Blackmon, who is on the policy committee for the Banks Project, has indicated he will inform the coalition in the near future of ways to engage job seekers in the Banks hiring process.

The Banks Project is a major retail and housing development project slated to begin in 2008 near downtown Cincinnati, adjacent to the Ohio River.

Mallory has strongly emphasized recently that one of his goals is to see an increase in job opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to Re-entry Coalition member Stephen JohnsonGrove, “Mayor Mallory is changing Civil Service Commission regulations so that ex-offenders with felony convictions are not automatically barred from city employment.”

JohnsonGrove is also in the process of hiring an advocacy attorney to work with the Re-entry Coalition and handle other re-entry issues. Another issue of importance, too, is for the coalition to participate on the Hamilton County Criminal Justice Commission, in order to offer input into resource coordination for formerly incarcerated individuals and to help with the process of directing formerly incarcerated individuals to work toward their “Certificate of Rehabilitation.”


Premier National Conference on Addiction and Criminal Behavior, September 28 – October 1, 2008
June 2008

This fall, the nation’s leading specialists, physicians, counselors, advocates, teachers, leaders, professionals, and innovators in the fields of criminology, substance abuse, incarceration, and offender re-entry will share new discoveries, strategies, and insights into incarceration, addiction, and re-entry at the 9th National Conference on Addiction and Criminal Behavior from Sept. 28 – Oct. 1 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Sponsored by GWC Inc., one of the country’s most prominent training networks for areas involving incarceration, addiction, and re-entry, the conference annually features a range of significant sessions that feature new, updated, and often ground-breaking approaches to those issues.

This year the conference will feature RED! columnist and The Psychology of Incarceration facilitator, Khalil Osiris, as main speaker in the first General Session, Sunday, Sept. 28, from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Each morning will feature a two-hour General Session followed by concurrent workshops and sessions throughout the afternoon. Professionals from across the country are scheduled to address topics ranging from “Drugs to Treat Addiction” and “Juvenile Re-entry” to “A Strategy for Addressing Sexual Exploitation.”

Continuing Education Units (CEU’s), administered by the American Psychological Association, will be available. An additional $18.00 processing fee for the CEU’s is due at the time of registration. Registration for CEU’s should include the person’s State and License Number.

Professionals, vendors, publishers, and organizations can share new and innovative information about products and services relevant to the field of addiction and criminal behavior in the centrally located, high traffic area.

For more information on the conference, registration, discounts, workshops, CEU’s, table displays, and other attractions, visit or call 1-800-851-5406. The website provides a detailed conference schedule, or, if preferred, GWCInc. will mail a brochure.

The address for GWCInc. is P.O. Box 5023, Cahokia, Illinois 62206-5023.


Doug Harris Wins 2008 Beacon Award
June 2008

California documentary filmmaker, Doug Harris, has received a 2008 Beacon Award from the Association of Cable Communicators (ACC). He received the award for his film, “Bounce: The Don Barksdale Story”. An awards ceremony was held April 1st in Washington, D.C. to honor all recipients of ACC’s annual awards.

A prolific documentary filmmaker, Harris continues to focus on films that blend a historical emphasis on sports – namely, basketball – with the sports subject’s impact on community and region. In effect, Harris’ films illuminate how sports often positively impact the cultural, historical, and economics of a place.

Harris is also executive director and media specialist of Athletes United for Peace (AUP) ( Some of the media productions at have been placed through AUP’s digital technology academy media arts programs for teens.

AUP’s media arts programs frequently partners with educational and government institutions. Many excerpts and features from AUP’s filmmaking can be views at the AUP website.

Harris’ recent work with a group of incarcerated teenagers in California is especially noteworthy. RED! captures Harris’ recent creative efforts in an interview with him March 2008.


Urban Success Mentoring Program Launches
June 2008

Paulette Lewis has founded a new, volunteer-based organization called “Urban Success Mentoring Program,” which promotes peace and understanding and empowers youths to be independent and successful.

Services and programs provided by the organization are free and no individual residing in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio is denied service, Lewis says. Urban Success’ goal is to connect with each neighborhood in Cincinnati. Over 75 youths and their families have been a part of the mentoring program in the past eight years.

“Right now, we need to reach more youths and their families,” Lewis says, “and we need help to do it.”

In addition to the services, Urban Success offers a 24-hour Crisis Response hotline. The number is 513-526-7029.  The hotline offers assistance and referrals to any problem or issue an individual is facing.

Some of the programs offered include, “Peace, My Brother,” which helps build positive relationships among rival gangs; “Use Your Words,” which identifies ways potentially violent situations can be de-escalated; “No Longer a Choice,” a pro-life advocacy and pregnancy support system; “It Takes a Village,” which assists young parents in raising their children; “Welcome Home,” which offers housing and employment assistance after incarceration.

Other services offer assistance in the areas of employment readiness, recovering assistance, homework/study groups, food and clothing distribution, transportation, and a program devoted to helping abused young women.

“Urban Success is growing, because so many youths’ needs are growing,” Lewis says. “We need people to assist in fundraising, promoting our services, and getting involved with the kids and networking with similar programs to do more.”

For more information on Urban Success Mentoring Program and to help with some of its needs, contact 513-600-6066, or 513-575-9306, or email