Ten Topics with Jamie L. Gee, managing officer of the Montgomery County Office of Ex-Offender Reentry.
By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
Jamie L. Gee is the managing officer of the Montgomery County Office of Ex-Offender Reentry (MCOER) and has over 25 years of experience in the correctional, parole and community reentry service arena. Her office is dedicated to helping ex-offenders reintegrate into the community while reducing recidivism. We sat down with her to learn more.
1. The MCOER opened in July 2010, and I was appointed as the manager in August of that year. Our mission is to provide programs and services that minimize barriers to reentry and promote a reduction in recidivism for first-time and repeat offenders.
2. I started my criminal justice career with the Ohio Department of Corrections—at the Warren Correctional Institution, in 1989—starting as a food service worker and working my way up within 16 years to serve as a unit manager, supervising over 500 adult males. Along the way, I served in administrative, social and recovery services, and subsequently transferred to the Cincinnati Region Adult Parole Authority as a Reentry Specialist in 2005, covering several counties for five years before beginning work with the MCOER.
3. MCOER evolved from Judge Walter Rice and County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman’s commitment to a community-wide task force in 2008 to address the high rate of recidivism in the county. The rate initially stood at 43 percent. We opened our doors, thankfully in part to a Second Chance Act grant, and attribute our continued success to the support of Policy Board, community partners and stakeholders.
4. The task force set a goal of reducing the Montgomery County recidivism rate by 50 percent, by the end of 2015. Right now, the rate is at 27.5 percent.
5. Our office is comprised of three staff members, and we host two consultants for volunteer and prostitution intervention services. We attribute the success of our efforts to the community support we receive. We have an established policy board (2010), and Reentry Collaborative (2011) to assist with our involvement within the community.
6. Our motto at the MCOER is “action, alliance and accountability.” We provide a variety of services, including referrals to employers, soft skills training, linkage to social services and mentor connection.
7. We promote cognitive behavioral services that are evidence-based and very successful with those who are at risk of recidivism. Participants are challenged to substitute risky thinking with positive thinking, so that they can avoid repeating the mistakes of their past.
8. One of our most exciting new programs aims to increase opportunities for employment among our participants. We started an Offender Workforce Development program (2013) with a major manufacturer to give former offenders a chance to restart their careers, a program that we are now expanding.
9. Our major goal is to help decrease the victimization in our community through increasing public safety and reducing recidivism. Providing these services to former offenders, who are now willing to help themselves, makes us all safer.
10. I have a passion for my work here at MCOER. When we help one person make steps toward a better tomorrow, it makes their “today” have purpose.