Updated: Apr 28
Lasherica Thornton’s article in the Jackson Sun brings one of the most important issues to our attention when it comes to the employment of formerly incarcerated individuals: lack of re-entry programs that aim to reduce recidivism. However, there are more and more initiatives, such as the Phase II program in Jackson, Tennessee.
Lack of re-entry programs in less populated areas
Formerly incarcerated people have an extremely difficult time reentering the community after being released. They come home with more trauma and often experience a lack of support when trying to overcome the problems related to reacclimating to the working environment. The absence of a re-entry program oftentimes leads to more issues, so the cycle continues: people after release are not able to deal with trauma, cannot find a job and therefore they commit crimes again. Re-entry programs are generally available in bigger cities, however, the help is very much needed in less populated areas as well.
Phase II: A much-needed re-entry program in West Tennessee
Thornton’s article exposes that Madison County in Tennessee has a recidivism rate of 85%. However, neither the city, county, or surrounding region has a program that would welcome West Tennesseans home after imprisonment. This was the main motivation for Shauntel Mathis-Chapman who established the Phase II re-entry program in Jackson, Tennessee. They partnered with Free Hearts, an organization led by formerly incarcerated women who know the struggle of being impacted by incarceration. They believe that a strong, well-thought-out re-entry program is the missing link and can be the solution to successfully reenter society.
“This part of the state really needs a strong re-entry program; we need that,” Harrington said. “It’s a gap. It’s a missing link. This is going to do so much to give a second chance to people who are coming home to heal, restore and advance their lives.” - Dawn Herrington, Executive Director at Free Hearts in Thornton, 2021
Providing support through training and rehabilitation
The Phase II program was founded in April 2021 and it is a 12-month re-entry program. It aims to serve as a resource program with training and rehabilitation that helps to get to the root of participants' issues and provides guidance on how to overcome these traumatic events. Participants of the program have access to counseling, therapy, and mental health support; alcohol and drug education and intervention; GED classes; credit building; staffing companies; business entrepreneurship classes; computer room to learn computer skills; and cosmetology training through the Master Braid Academy. Twelve people have signed up as of April 22, 2021, and the program is already partnering with 18 different organizations, including Goodwill, Jackson Transit Authority, Jackson State Community College, and Jackson Madison Crime Prevention Coalition.
“West Tennesseans will now have the resources and support they need to get the opportunities and second chances they deserve”
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