OMJ STAR project birthed with $471,072 grant

By Portia Williams -

The Scioto County Community Action Organization (CAO), on behalf of the regional Workforce Development Board, has received a $471,072 grant to bring the Ohio Means Jobs (OMJ) STAR project into fruition. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration is providing the grant funding.

The project called ‘OMJ STAR,’ is the result of a partnership between CAO’s employment and training department, OhioMeansJobs – Scioto County and the STAR Community Justice Center (SCJC) in which the grant will be utilized to launch a satellite OhioMeansJobs center at the STAR Community Justice Center. OMJ STAR will serve an estimated 200 offenders who previously resided in Adams, Brown, Pike and Scioto counties.

Steve Sturgill, executive director of Scioto County CAO, said OMJ Star project is an essential for the after care process for offenders.

“Evidence shows that one of the keys to reducing recidivism is through employment. We need to increase employment outcomes for justice-involved individuals,” Sturgill said. “We are optimistic that having an OhioMeansJobs center on site at STAR and being part of the aftercare case management team will assist in focusing on an employment outcome earlier in the process and ultimately help move the region’s recidivism rate in the right direction.”

The goal of the program is to boost the numbers of job placements among offenders reentering the Adams, Brown, Pike and Scioto County communities by better integrating public career services with the criminal justice system. Overall goals also include reducing recidivism and promoting public safety throughout the regional area.

At the core of the OMJ STAR project is the establishment of a jail-based OhioMeansJobs center with a 15-workstation computer lab and the enhancement of the therapy currently provided to inmates with an in-depth career readiness training, focused job search effort and supervised aftercare that emphasizes an employment outcome.

Additionally, other opportunities that will be made available include adult basic literacy education, short-term occupational skills training and intensive job development and placement services. Upon release, offenders will continue their job placement and/or retention efforts during their aftercare through a coordinated case management effort between probation and the OhioMeansJobs center in their home communities.

STAR Community Justice Center is an American Correctional Association accredited male and female Community Based Correctional Facility located in Scioto County overseen by a governing board comprised of Common Pleas Court Judges representing the counties served. STAR is a local alternative to prison with the primary purpose of rehabilitation of non-violent, felony offenders.

STAR serves 19 counties located in southeastern Ohio, including the four targeted counties. If success can be demonstrated through the LEAP-2 grant, additional resources will be sought to expand the program and make it available to offenders housed at STAR who previously resided in counties other than those four targeted by the project, according to Sciot County CAO officials.

Eddie Philabaun, executive director of SCJC, said OMJ Star project is an opportunity to better serve offenders, and empowers partnerships and team work efforts.

“OMJ STAR is an amazing opportunity to better serve offenders entrusted to our care from Adams, Brown, Pike and Scioto counties. This is another partnership where each of us hold a key to the offender’s long-term success as they return back to their hometown,” Philabaun said. “It is only when we work together as a team that we will be able to reduce recidivism and make our communities a safer place to live. It is my sincere belief that working together as a Community Justice community is what works and is what is best as we strive to return offenders better prepared to become responsible, tax-paying citizens.”

Howard Harcha, Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge and representative of the Judicial Advisory Board, said the partnership between Scioto County CAO and SCJC increases possibilities for men and women, and helps them to become reestablished in the community.

“Making our communities safer takes community collaboration and a shared desire to truly help our neighbors reach their fullest potential. This partnership between Scioto County Community Action and STAR Community Justice Center will increase the possibilities for the men and women who will be returning to their homes within these local counties,” Harcha said. “The enhanced programming afforded by the grant will focus on building job, life, and social skills in an effort to assist STAR residents in becoming more employable and allow them to give back to the community. Increasing the probability of these restored citizens to gain employment upon release places them on a path toward success which improves their quality of life and reduces the likeliness of recidivism. Receiving this grant creates an exciting opportunity to better prepare these citizens to be productive members of society.”

The grant award is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s second round of Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP-2) initiatives, which will provide $5.5 million in grants to demonstration projects in 11 communities within eight states that provide comprehensive services to inmates pre- and post-release. The LEAP-2 initiative is designed to build partnerships between local correctional systems and the local workforce systems to connect individuals with criminal records who are transitioning to a range of community-based services that lead to employment and a renewed future.

Workforce Development Area #1 is the regional Workforce Development Board responsible for overseeing Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs in Adams, Brown, Pike and Scioto counties, and makes funding available to local providers for employment and training programs that enable adults and youth to develop the skills and knowledge needed for in-demand careers.

For more information regional initiatives, visit For more regarding Scioto County initiatives, visit or call Scioto County CAO at 740-354-7541.

By Portia Williams

Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.

Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.