Between Coasts: Second Chances in the Rust Belt

NEWARK - Dana Cashdollar had been in line since early in the morning. Short, with red hair and a mustache, Dana walked at the very back. He watched as the column of inmates shuffled along, down hallways, and through gates he’d never seen before, even after several years of being locked up at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio.

He was being led toward a room—a last checkpoint before a waiting area with a door that opened on a half-full parking lot, a crisp breeze, and an open sky.

As he passed, a guard called out, “You ever come back, Cashdollar, I’ll give you a kidney shot.” Dana gave him permission to do that and a whole lot worse.

His daughter, his brother, and his mom were waiting for him in the lobby, ready to drive him home to Licking County. “My family was so excited for me that I almost forgot to be excited myself,” Dana remembers.

In Ohio, thousands of men and women are released from prison every year. According to the recent Licking County Reentry Summit, over 24,000 will return to their communities in 2017. In Licking County, where Dana lives, around a quarter of those released will probably be reincarcerated again within three years.

On his first day free, Dana had to adjust quickly. His brother handed him a new phone with a touch-screen—quite different than the flip phone he’d had in 2007. He also had to get used to not having cuffs on his wrists while traveling on the highway.

And he had to reorganize his life, beginning with documentation. To re-enter society–getting a job, opening a bank account, even going to a doctor–Cashdollar would need a social security card, birth certificate, and state ID, none of which he had.

Dana Cashdollar had to start over.

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