(Cleveland) - A move is underway to ease the transition from prison to community for Ohio inmates who have completed serving their sentences.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation is partnering with local judges and faith-based leaders to assist felons who have paid their debt to society.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo contends the community often continues to punish inmates after they are released from prison.

Judge Nancy Margaret Russo

She feels churches can help make the transition easier with prison ministries, transition programs, and by helping to take care of families when a relative is incarcerated, if their congregation is comfortable with that.

Judge Russo tells Newsradio WTAM, when inmates return to society through structured and secure re-entry programs it’s easier for them to turn their lives around, and it’s also safer for the community at large.

ODR Director Gary Mohr says Ohio inmates already have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation. He rebuffs critics who believe state prisons have revolving doors.

ODR Director Gary Mohr

Mohr tells Newsradio WTAM 1100 that 71.3 percent of ex-convicts do not return to prison after being on the outside for 3 years.

However, he wants to see that percentage increase, and feels churches can help by helping to prepare inmates for release.

Mohr says the state is committed to further enhancing re-entry programs. On Thursday, Mohr and Russo conducted a special session at the Justice Center to discuss ways judges and others in the legal community can help inmates to become productive citizens again.

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(Photos by Ken Robinson/WTAM & Darren Toms/Cuy. Co. Common Pleas Court)

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