Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: Redeeming the Remainder of a Life

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: Redeeming the Remainder of a Life

Article excerpt

GRAFTON, Ohio -- The man at the front of the room in the prison here is talking about the institution's culinary and hospitality training that will help some of his fellow inmates "give back to the community." He will never get back to any community. But because he is not going anywhere, he can provide leadership to those who are. Some will go to the 35 Cleveland restaurants that are eager to help themselves, and reduce recidivism while doing so, by hiring those who learn in prison to serve the food plate from the left and to remove it from the right.

Here, amid Ohio farmland, Gary Mohr's work of reclaiming felons is working, with many assists from the churches. His title -- director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction -- needs another word: "reintegration." Meaning the preparation for re- entry into society of people like Walter Atwood.

He is 37, a tall, thin African-American who played Othello in a prison production assisted by nearby Oberlin College. He has been incarcerated for almost 21 years, since being convicted of, among other things, aggravated robbery, attempted rape and attempted murder. His next parole hearing is in 14 months, but whenever he returns to society he will be ready for restaurant work.

He would, however, prefer to find work using graphic design skills learned here in a computer lab run by Michael Brown, 33. Ten years ago, to get out from under the consequences of other bad decisions, he says he "made a bad decision." The robbery resulted in a 12-year sentence.

Mohr, 62, who wears his big heart on his sleeve, is a devout Lutheran who preaches the gospel of reintegration from pulpits around Ohio. Martin Luther said salvation comes from faith rather than good works, but Mohr figures good works can't hurt.

He started in corrections 41 years ago as an Ohio State undergraduate, paid $2. …

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