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C.E.O. Works battles the prison-to-poverty pipeline in Cincinnati

In Cincinnati, there's a new program working to end the prison-to-poverty pipeline. (WKRC)
In Cincinnati, there's a new program working to end the prison-to-poverty pipeline. (WKRC)
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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - In Cincinnati, there's a new program working to end the prison-to-poverty pipeline.

The goal is to help people formerly incarcerated find housing and work. In just one year, C.E.O. Works has helped 196 people. Patrick Guggino is one of them.

The 55-year old, originally from New Mexico, was released from federal prison two months ago.

“I have a felony, and where do I get started? How do I get a job? Where do I begin to look for a job? Who hires felons?" questioned Guggino.

He got answers to those questions at C.E.O. Works in the West End. It’s a place that battles poverty with a prisoner re-entry program.

“I don't think necessarily that people are poor just because they're black or just because they're from this neighborhood. I think it's much, much more than that, and I think it's something that can be fixed,” said Guggino.

Lowering poverty rates is a mission of Sid Taylor's. He’s the executive director of C.E.O. Works Cincinnati.

“We take that education for the soft skills to more of the hard skills to teach certifications. Just teach a good work ethic to instill that confidence and hope,” said Taylor, a Cincinnati native.

Guggino says those skills and policy changes could help.

“I’ve never understood how somebody who hasn't been making child support payments, you're going to take away their driver's license, which is what they use to go to work to get a paycheck to sustain themselves. There should be a different way to do that,” said Guggino.

But until there is a different way, Taylor works to help find solutions and navigate potential roadblocks. He connects participants like Guggino to other services to help keep them on track.

Eighty-seven percent of C.E.O.'s participants have no education beyond high school while 56 percent have no prior work experience and 53 percent have one or more children.

“Now, we understand that, if we could collaborate with other groups that are doing really strong work in their level of expertise, putting that together is like completing a puzzle,” said Taylor.

Taylor also says in order for Cincinnati to lower its childhood poverty rate, there needs to be more collaboration, and that's why C.E.O. Works chose to be housed at the CityLink Center because, inside, there are services like a vision center and daycare center. That way, program participants don't have to go all across the city to get services.

“I’ve seen a lot of effort to work together. I've seen organizations now begin to say, 'hey, we can’t do it all,'” said Taylor. “There really are other organizations that are strong in certain areas, and if we can collaborate with each other, we can address poverty."

C.E.O. Works has helped 196 participants in its first full year with a 70 percent placement rate. Taylor says that number continues to grow.

“We look to be serving around 215 participants and about the same placement rate. So, we just want to take that solid number and make it even greater,” said Taylor.

Those numbers translate to real change for people like Guggino, who is already seeing a difference.

“I even have an interview tomorrow with a company here in Cincinnati that is willing to look at the fact that I have a past felony and still overlook that,” he said.

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C.E.O. Works also lobbies lawmakers to change laws in an effort to end mass incarceration. The organization has similar programs in New York City, Detroit and Los Angeles.

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