By Meg Dickens
According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, 46 percent of released inmates in Tennessee are re-arrested and sent back to jail or prison within three years of release. Johnson County hopes to reduce these recidivism occurrences with a new program. County Mayor Mike Taylor and Sheriff Eddie Tester joined forces to pursue a $50,000Correctional Career Pathways grant to rehabilitate inmates and return them to the workforce.
The Correctional Career Pathways: Journey to Hope model program started in Greene County in 2015. The program targets inmates approximately 90 days before release and helps them learn “soft skills” they need to get a job. The program teaches three trainers, which then go to the facilities to select qualifying inmates.
This program costs the county nothing. It is not a matching grant, and everything is funded directly through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) working with East Tennessee State University. Johnson County’s trainers went through their training this past week and are now working to identify approximately 20 inmates to participate.
“If we can get one person turn their life around and get back to work, it’ll be well worth the trouble,” said County Mayor Mike Taylor. “I want to see us do our best.”
At this point, Johnson County has two businesses that agreed to put these people to work as soon as the day after they are released, CrystaLac and Parkdale. Taylor reports that there are also some construction company opportunities. The county is still pursuing any other options.
According to Taylor, the program has a subsection that works like parole. The former inmates will have access to mentors to help them along the way, and they can also receive random drug tests as a precaution. Any court costs not paid come directly from their pay.
Taylor announced that he hopes to have the program running within the next 30 days but does not currently have a timeline. Find out more about the Correctional Career Pathways program at etsu.edu.