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Ex-convicts returning to prison hits new low in OH

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

The number of former convicts going back to prison in Ohio has hit a new low. State prison officials say the success is due to programs aimed at working with inmates before they're released back into the community.

While this statistic holds truth today, this hasn't always been the case.

Over the course of the last 40 years, the nation's prison population has ballooned at a cost of roughly $52 billion per year. Ohio prison officials and community leaders are working to reverse that trend.

In 2012 alone, nearly 20,000 men and women were sent to Ohio prisons and for many, it wasn't their first trip behind bars.  While there doesn't seem to be a magic bullet to break that cycle, self-determination proves to go a long way.

"2006 was the last time I was convicted and incarcerated and I made a choice," said former inmate Clarence Williams. "I just got tired of going through the same old same...I had kids and I just wanted to do something different."

Before Williams came to the realization that he wanted to better himself, he was caught up in the life of being a drug dealer.

"I was locked up numerous times for drug convictions, caught up in the lifestyle like a lot of my guys out here today...you know, fast money, girls, the whole thing that comes with being in that culture."

When Williams was released in 2009, he became a client of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) where he got help planning a better life.

"We mapped out a life change plan and we started to put those goals into place and started to act on them. We started to execute stuff."

Williams is now an outreach worker with CIRV, walking ex-convicts through the sometimes difficult process getting a life outside of prison.

"We go into the games and we get guys to start coming up with plans. Don't wait until you're walking out the door to come up with a plan...already have one because that's what it's going to start with. You say you want to go back to school, well these are the exact steps to go back to school and that's what we do at CIRV...we walk you through the process, we don't send you through the process...we walk you through it because we know you're not used to going through this."

Williams says helping ex-convicts get jobs allows them to become productive members of society, making our communities safer.

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