Magazine article Corrections Today

Broadcasting without Boundaries: Ohio's Reentry Television Network Delivers Hope

Magazine article Corrections Today

Broadcasting without Boundaries: Ohio's Reentry Television Network Delivers Hope

Article excerpt

Reaching a viewership of nearly 8,000 offenders, the Helping Ohio Prisoners Excel (HOPE) Channel offers just that: hope. Hope often implies something for the future, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Northeast Region's broadcasting network introduces hope for today, as it brings challenging opportunities and positive programs into the typically routine day of incarceration. These inspirational and motivational broadcasts are delivered seven days a week to all offenders throughout the region's six prisons, which house various security-level offenders from the lowest-level reintegration centers to Ohio's highest levels of security.

The HOPE Channel team consists of ODRC and Adult Parole Authority staff, community partners, volunteers and a group of inspired offenders. Each of the members brings a variety of abilities and service experience to the table, including community volunteer work with organizations like building with Habitat for Humanity, coaching Little League, conducting international mission trips, advising for 4-H youths, pastoring and, in the case of veterans and offenders, experiencing Ohio's criminal justice system from a personal perspective. Bringing such a broad assortment of lifestyles and experiences together creates a valuable collaboration, resulting in diverse ideas and programming to meet the interests of a wide range of viewers. So far, the channel has been steadily expanding and contingently requiring more sophisticated equipment. Over the past year, the team has transitioned from using a duplicator and manually transporting DVDs with programmed content to each facility to transmitting content via a Nexus server, which is programmable remotely. Although equipment and technology for such a project is costly, the entire HOPE Channel project is not funded with state dollars, but instead utilizes grant funding and donations.

Also starting small and continuing to grow are the programs and content. Beginning in 2014 with one program, offenders under the supervision of ODRC staff and volunteers created the talk show "Outlook," which permitted inmate panelists to discuss current events. Since that time, the HOPE Channel's content has greatly expanded both in variety and quantity. With the focus on anchoring pro-social, meaningful activities around reentry and stressing inmate contribution, the HOPE Channel now airs ex-offender success stories, family-centered programs, career profiles, artistic and musical shows, and shows discussing matters that affect the quality of residents' lives. Working with the HOPE Channel has provided the incarcerated team members with life-changing skills, as well as character-building experiences; they create positive broadcasting formats that will speak the language and gain the attention of fellow inmates. During his incarceration, an offender became a team member of the channel and has remained involved even after his release. Speaking about what the HOPE Channel meant in his experience, he said it helps "to foster development of the individual while they are still incarcerated, teaching them social skills and life skills that will not only prepare them for their return home, but also help reshape their character and value systems."

Aside from overcoming technological and funding hurdles, the channel transcended traditional beliefs regarding incarceration, such as inmate access to video equipment, male and female offenders working collaboratively on projects and travel beyond the institutional grounds. This groundbreaking aspect of the HOPE Channel--which uses inmate camera crews from the Northeast Reintegration Center, under staff supervision, to travel to community events--has been remarkable. The events provide unique opportunities to create broadcasting material related directly to the inmate viewers' home communities, supporting organizations and reentry opportunities, as well as programs involving ODRC initiatives and meaningful activity opportunities. …

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