PHASING UP [news]

Ohio Re-entry Support Group Gains Certification
Sept 2008

One of the most active and dedicated re-entry support groups in the state of Ohio for formerly incarcerated individuals has recently been recognized by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)) as an authorized re-entry support group.

The re-entry support group (RSG) in Hamilton County received certification based largely on its new collaboration with the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (APA) and its Cincinnati Regional Office.

In their collaboration, the Cincinnati office of the APA will provide the RSG with referrals of recent, formerly incarcerated individuals that could benefit from the solidarity and pro-active meetings at the core of the RSG.

The RSG consists of approximately fourteen men who meet bi-monthly to discuss issues of employment, health, self-improvement, spirituality, and empowerment.

“This is a huge accomplishment and a larger open door for formerly incarcerated people to walk through,” says De’Ron Smith, director of the RSG and RED! the breakthrough ‘zine columnist. “

Prior to this collaboration and the new certification, Smith recognized that the RSG  “needed and wanted to find a basis where individuals’ expectations could truly be met and where real goal-setting and constant self-improvement could be achieved and measured.”

Most significantly, the Cincinnati APA and RSG will collaborate on the case management and pre-and-post-assessments of paroled individuals participating in the RSG. Both will be able to monitor the progress of the individuals during their re-entry.

The ADA will evaluate the progress of the collaboration every six months.

The Hamilton County RSG meets on the first and third Thursday at 4949 Paddock Road in Cincinnati, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. The building is in Bond Hill, a central suburb of Cincinnati. The meetings are held in the front of the building, although participants as asked to enter through the back door of the building. For more information, call 513-604-6191, or email dinspirational@fuse.net.

RED! the breakthrough ‘zine interviewed De'Ron Smith and two leading members of the RSG, Joe Letshe and Tony Drummond, in June.

 

The Ohio Innocence Project and a Case for “The New Civil Rights Movement”
Sept 2008

The national organization called The Innocence Project has extended unforgettable miracles to 220 wrongfully convicted and imprisoned prisoner by using DNA evidence to overturn their convictions, and initiating the process for their release from prison.
    
Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio chapter of The Innocence Project (OIP), discussed the impact of OIP with nearly 60 guests at the Glendale Lyceum in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 18, and screened a yet-unreleased documentary film which examines the case of one Ohio man whose conviction OIP helped overturn in 2003.
    
Speaking with Godsey was the most recent, formerly incarcerated individual aided by OIP, Robert McClendon, who served 18 years for a conviction of rape that DNA evidence proved he did not commit. McClendon spoke about his incarceration and recent release after the film screening.
   
The new short documentary, “Convicted: The True Story of Clarence Elkins,” directed by Mike Wells and produced by Kurtis Productions, is a 40-minute film that reveals the formidable, cutting-edge influence of OIP, and how it eventually obtained DNA evidence to prove Elkins’ innocence of the murder of his mother-in-law in Barberton, Ohio, where Elkins also lived.

Elkins, who was arrested and convicted in 1998, had always claimed his innocence. His wife at the time succeeded in convincing the OIP to take on his case. The film shows both her determination to prove Elkins’ innocence and the OIP’s gradual frustrating encounters with Summit County (Ohio) officials in securing evidence and documents to pursue their work in proving Elkins’ innocence.

The film depicts Godsey’s tense relationship with Summit County prosecutors who, Godsey claims in the film, had maintained Elkins was guilty.        

The film is expected to be released in 2009, Godsey said.

The Innocence Project was originated by Barry Scheck, the attorney most known for his work as one of the “Dream Team” defense attorneys for O.J. Simpson, acquitted in 1995 for the alleged murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Scheck was one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to emulate the way defense attorneys in the United Kingdom used DNA testing in criminal cases.

Currently, the Innocence Project has organized affiliates in 30 states.

“This is the new Civil Rights Movement,” Godsey said. “We understand there are lapses in police work. We are tackling cases that must be dealt with.”
   
The privately funded OIP was started in 2003 through a joint effort spearheaded by city of Cincinnati councilman, John Cranley. Its offices are located at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. An endowment pays for 40 percent of OIP funding, while the organization fundraisers compose the remaining funding.
   
A small staff of law students works with law school faculty and volunteer attorneys to review cases where new physical (DNA) evidence, along with rigid screening criteria of the case, support the inmate’s claim of innocence. The evidence can be newly discovered or developed through investigation; the DNA evidence is required before the OIP will take a case.
     
According to the OIP website, “Students are also involved in the preliminary investigation of cases to determine if a request for [inmate] assistance meets the established criteria.”
    
Godsey’s introduction of McClendon at the film screening energized the crowd even more. Convicted in 1990 for the rape of a 10-year old girl, McClendon had vehemently claimed his innocence. McClendon’s case actually became the most quickly solved case the OIP has handled.
    
McClendon said that perhaps his largest battle was with the state Parole Board, which, he said, “wants you to admit guilt. Then it can more confidently look into the possibility of releasing you.”
   
He was refused parole on three occasions. “There was no way I was going to admit my guilt,” he told the audience. “My family and friends believed in me. I believed in my case. I held fast.”
    
The DNA testing for McClendon’s case began on July 20, 2008. He was released on August 8 after serving 18 years in prison. “How did I make it all that time?” he said, emphasizing verbatim last question asked by a guest. “I prayed my way out. And with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, here I am. I’m here tonight.”

 

“Basketball in the Barrio” to Screen at Inaugural U.S. Sports Films Festival
Sept 2008

The documentary films of popular West Coast filmmaker, Doug Harris, are currently gaining new audiences nationwide, advancing the already established view that Harris’ sports films are among the most original and intelligent being made today.

These days, he’s taking his recent film, “Basketball in the Barrio,” completed earlier in 2008, coast to coast. It will be screened October 23-26 at the 2008 U.S. Sports Film Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is the festival’s first year.

This is Harris’ first film to land in a film festival on the east coast. Previously, the film screened in a southwest Texas festival, and there’s also an Oakland, California screening set for October 15 at the Cesar Chavez Education Center, on the occasion of Harris’ birthday. 

Harris is a veteran Bay Area filmmaker whose basketball films, in particular, are recognized as some of best basketball documentaries in existence.

Produced by Harris and Athletes United for Peace, “Basketball in the Barrio” is the story of one of the most unique sports camps in the country held in El Paso, Texas’ Segundo Barrio.

Check out this YouTube clip for a view of part of the film: http://www.youtube.com/user/doug/5271.

Most extraordinary about Harris’ basketball documentaries, and especially “Basketball in the Barrio,” is his artistic blend of a region’s cultural history and how sports have favorably impacted it. “Basketball in the Barrio” shows colorful Mexican-American history intersecting with and being informed by a currently deep and growing dependence on sports – basketball in particular.

The film portrays the ways in which, over a period of years, one special basketball camp has brought together a diversity of cultures and enabled so many young athletes to get to know one another’s background, experiences, and dreams.

“It’s a film, I think, that breaks barriers itself as a sports documentary, and it reveals a lot of cultural barriers being broken down, greatly because of the vision and guidance of the camp’s directors who bring these young players together,” Harris says. “There’s a rich history to this region itself, and it keeps getting more fascinating.”

The U.S. Sports Film Festival, featuring all feature-length sports documentaries, will showcase a variety of films made by both novice and established documentary filmmakers.

Other festival films include, “Kickin’ It,” which looks at a team of homeless soccer players; “Run for Your Life,” a biography-documentary about Fred Lubow, founder of the New York City Marathon; and “Kassim the Dream,” about Kassim Ouma, a boxing champion who spent his childhood as a soldier in Uganda.
    
Also a part of the festival will be panel discussions with both filmmakers and sports writers. Guests viewing the films will have the chance to interact with production teams of the films screened.
    
Harris is currently wrapping up production of his newest film, “Basketball Guru: The Pete Newell Story.” A preview clip of this newest film can be found at the Athletes United for Peace (AUP) website, www.athletesunitedforpeace.org.
    
Read RED! editor Jeffrey Hillard’s interview with Doug Harris in the webzine’s premier issue.

 

Urban Success Reaches New Goals
Sept 2008

The innovative, innercity program, Urban Success (www.urbansuccess.vpweb.com) has reached several new goals, as it strives to increase its visibility in the Greater Cincinnati region and connect with youths from mostly lower-income communities that are considered at-risk,
   
Founder and director of Urban Success, Paulette Lewis, held a successful Walk-a-thon fundraiser in August, raising over $3,000 for the organization. The proceeds of the fundraiser will be used to especially upgrade several, critical current programs, such as Peace, My Brother, Use Your Words, and Life Changes.
  
“The fundraiser was a huge goal met,” Lewis says. “It’s allowed Urban Success to keep operating, for the most part.”
    
Peace, My Brother is one of the organization’s most crucial programs, she says. A significant program as it aims to promote peace and build positive relationships among rival gangs, Peace, My Brother is constantly engaged in pro-active intervention.
    
“Violence among youths is escalating in Cincinnati and even in surrounding rural areas,” Lewis says. “Police are stretched way, way too thin. Youths’ accessibility to guns and ammunition is as untamed as ever. It’s reached a critical point, definitely.”
    
A major, local youth advocate who goes deep into the heart of often turbulent neighborhoods to sometimes quell animosity and threats between violent-prone youths, Lewis says that some of the Walk-a-thon’s proceeds have gone toward buying food for several youths while she keeps them at her house—a temporarily safe place away from the streets, as she says. There, she mentors them and regularly persuades them to give up street life.
   
“I’ve had recent success in helping turn around the mindsets and plans of some of my kids,” she says. “I think of them as my kids. They can trust me. I’m with them a great deal of the time.”
    
Urban Success’ Use Your Words program is another priority. It teaches youths various ways to de-escalate a potentially violent situation by finding positive and healthy ways to communicate.
   
Lewis says that Urban Success is expecting to partner soon with several other nonprofit organizations in an effort to help stabilize some violent areas of the city in which teenage gunshot victims are becoming more prevalent.
    
“There’s a way to get to the heart of many of our youths’ problems,” Lewis says. “Many of them are trying to reach out, but they’re not sure how to do it. They don’t think anyone’s listening. I hear this a lot.”
    
Lewis is also a columnist. Read more in her column.

 

Captivating Additions to Moment to Moment Choices
Sept 2008

When RED! Columnist, Tiffany Peterson, first created her non-profit organization, Moment to Moment Choices (www.mtmchoices.org), she was confident that both her  website and her personal story of transformation would allow her to increasingly connect with groups, churches, schools, and most especially, with people in dire need of making positive, healthy life choices.
     
So far, in 2008, she has succeeded. With a revamped website and more new dates recently added to her speaking schedule, Tiffany is reaching more people, sharing how she survived an emotional and physical tragedy, as well as incarceration. She has also consistently been writing about her experiences in RED! since April.
    
Tiffany’s journey toward undeniably life-saving, personal transformation began after her 2003 car accident which fatally injured a woman and the unborn child she was pregnant with. The woman was the fiancé of the driver of the truck that Tiffany hit. Tiffany recalls, both in her column in RED! and on her website, how alcohol and poor choices played the consummate roles contributing to the fatal accident. It is a story worth paying attention to.
    
Most significantly, though, the Moment to Moment Choices website features a new section devoted to Tiffany’s recent, hope-filled communication with the fatal accident victim’s then-fiancé, Andrew, the driver of the truck.
    
“I’m very thankful to God that Andrew and I have been communicating the way we have,” Peterson says. “I’ve prayed about this for a long time. I’ve dedicated my life now to hopefully influencing others to totally consider the choices they make in life, and realize that a life itself could be at stake. For my website to have Andrew share his heart about his relationship with Kathleen means everything to me.”
    
Which makes www.mtmchoices.org one of the most extraordinarily compelling websites out there. As difficult as it may sound, Andrew’s words on the website offer a unique perspective on the word healing.

 

New Women’s Re-entry Support Group Given Office Space
Sept 2008

A new support group for women in the Greater Cincinnati region re-entering society from incarceration will share space in a building with women belonging to the Findlay Neighborhood Center beginning in late October and early November.
    
Dr. Lynda Crane, professor of Psychology at the College of Mount St. Joseph, owns the building in which women of the Findlay Neighborhood Center currently meet. She has offered meeting space to the newly-formed re-entry support group, as participants plan to launch a series of meetings this fall.
     
There are currently very few re-entry support groups in Greater Cincinnati that involve women re-entering society from especially long periods of incarceration.
    
One of the leaders of the re-entry support group is RED! writer, Belinda C.
    
“This is a blessing that Dr. Crane is allowing us to meet in this building and to potentially do something really, really big with our lives,” Coulter says. “We are going to help ourselves individually and help others, all because we have a place to meet, talk, and do work.”
   
Opening in 2004 and located at 1830 Race Street, in downtown Cincinnati, Dr. Crane and the women mostly from the inner city community around Findlay Market work weekly on sewing and other humanitarian projects. “It’s a safe place for women to meet, and I think it will be valuable for the women in the re-entry support group to have a place where they can depend on meeting. Consistency is important.”
    
In this Fall issue of RED!, Dr. Crane, in an audio interview, discusses the significance of the Findlay Neighborhood Center and its impact on the neighborhood.