The Ohio Justice and Policy Center is announcing a program that will advocate for shortening prison time for those who have plead guilty and face "excessive" prison sentences.
The Cincinnati-based Beyond Guilt initiative wants to give former prisoners a platform to advocate for sentencing reform.
Christopher Avery was sentenced to 20 years in prison for bank robbery and six kidnappings. He says he committed those crimes to pay tuition at the University of Cincinnati.
"There are good people and we're not just all hardened criminals," Avery says. "Some of us make mistakes and would love the opportunity to redeem ourselves."
The goal of the program is to reduce the state's imprisoned population. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the state has 48,872 imprisoned people as of April 2019.
Executive director of the center David Singleton believes Beyond Guilt differs from other organizations because it focuses on reducing long sentences for people who have admitted guilt.
"We need to move away from a strictly punitive system to one that focuses on redemption on the humanity of folks who have been incarcerated," he says.
Convicted people should face consequences for their actions, he says, but the process shouldn't stop there.
Avery was released from Oakwood Correctional Facility in March after serving 12 years. He's now a client for the Beyond Guilt program. He says although he wants to move forward, he believes it's his responsibility to advocate for others.
"But at the same time, I can't forget what I've been through because I feel that will allow history to repeat itself," he says.
He has applied to University of Cincinnati to complete his degree.
The initiative has connected him with resources, including a mentor, in hopes of transitioning him back into his community.