February 20, 2017 at 9:48 am

CLJC Features Social Work & Psychology Alum | Helping Prisoners Return to Society

Shawn Stover graduated from Ohio University in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Psychology. He became a licensed Social Worker in 1991 and has worked in the Athens area for the past 26 years as a counselor, foster care assessor and with Athens County Job and Family Services the last 19 years.

Shawn Stover

Shawn Stover

Stover is currently the Reentry Coordinator for Athens County Job and Family Services as well as the Chairperson for the Athens Reentry Task Force.

What brought you to Ohio University?

I came to Ohio University because I had an older brother who attended prior to me and I would visit with him and became familiar with Ohio University. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the campus and the beautiful scenery of Athens County.

What is your current occupation? Explain what you do in a typical day.

I am the Reentry Coordinator for Athens County Job and Family Services. I help people who are returning to the Athens community from prison to become reestablished.

My typical day involves meeting with ex-offenders to complete an intake/gather information and work on their basic needs in order for them to become self-sufficient and gain employment. We build on their strengths linking them with community resources in order to develop good support systems. The main focus with each individual is to help them become job ready by assisting them with completing a resume, mock interviewing and job searching. A person with a felony is at a great disadvantage when seeking employment.

I also help people apply for food stamps and medical assistance, develop a plan for driver’s license reinstatement, sealing of criminal records if applicable, letters of support to the courts, working with Child Support Enforcement on payment plans for arrears and securing transportation in order to look for employment.

How did you become interested in that field? Was there a particular topic or field of law that got you interested in it in the first place?

I have worked at Athens County Job and Family Services for 19 years with adults and families living below the poverty level. The Reentry Coordinator position became available about three years ago due to a vacancy. I saw this as a good opportunity to expand my knowledge working with people who are underserved in the community. My background in Social Work has helped tremendously working with this population however it also would have been beneficial for me to have more experience in Criminology or Political Science for this particular position in order to know the court system processes better.

On a side note…the first person to hold the Reentry Coordinator position was a previous Public Defender for Athens County and he did an excellent job building and expanding the program.

What’s your favorite part of your position? What are you passionate about?

I truly enjoy working with people and gathering information from them so that I can better understand who they are and how they ended up with a felony on their record. If you let people tell their story and you listen closely it is amazing the insight that you can gain regarding human nature and their situation. People do not just wake up one day and say, “I think that I will become a drug addict today and break into someone’s home.” The key to reentry is to find out what is important to the client starting with the basic needs and making positive changes at their pace.

I am passionate about the small victories. When someone succeeds at something that seemed out of their reach. Those happy surprises that they completed a treatment program, were hired at a decent job or started college or training. Those are the things that help the job seem worthwhile.

How did your Ohio University experience prepare you for law school and shape your career path?

Ohio University has a great curriculum and wonderful well-balanced instructors. It is important to follow a good study routine and take advantage of all the resources that Ohio University has to offer. It also helps to become active with various clubs and organizations as they will help to prepare you for working as a team member for a future employer.

Although I will not be attending law school it is important to study a variety of areas outside of your major and become comfortable understanding and working with people who have varied beliefs, cultures and customs. College is a great opportunity to expand your views, grow and meet new people.

Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

Get to know the people that you are working with on their most basic level. We so often place middle class standards on people living in poverty, and the vast majority of people who are in our legal system are impoverished. They may make poor decisions at times, but that does not mean that they are bad individuals. There will be people that you cross paths with who will refuse to change, but there will be many who can and will become productive members of society.

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

When I began to discover the many state parks and beautiful hiking trails around the area of Athens, it opened up a new world and release from the stresses of college. My friends and I would pile into a car and take the day to explore the area. One time while at Stroud’s Run we went off the trail and became lost for a long period of time. We ended up coming out of the woods near where Save-A-Lot is on State Street. I guess that you could say we took the road less traveled, and that has made all of the difference.

Anything else you would like to share?

Enjoy your college experience balance the work hard – play hard mentality and above all be safe and have some fun.

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