Tennessee: State maintains rehabilitation programs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee say they support the state's effort to preserve programs that seek to rehabilitate inmates and save money down the road by hopefully keeping them out of prison.

Many states, eager to cut costs in an economy still struggling to rebound, are re-examining stiffer sentence policies designed to lock up more inmates, as well as slashing programs intended to keep inmates from returning to crime after they are released.

But Tennessee has managed to keep, or combine, programs aimed at helping offenders become productive citizens -- including one that would actually save the state almost $6 million.

"Everything we're doing is aimed at better preparing offenders to go home, and stay home," said Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter. "And in the long run, that saves money."

One career management program for lower-risk inmates within 24 months of being released lasts 12 weeks and allows them to earn a one-time 60-day sentence credit.

Components of the program include conflict management and job training. Carter said a study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy shows the completion of such programs can reduce recidivism by 12.6 percent.

James Settles, founder of Aphesis House, a network of transitional living homes in Nashville and Memphis for ex-offenders, said those programs do have an important role of helping inmates incarcerated, but once released they need just as much support -- or more.

He said transitional programs like his continue to provide needed intervention through initiatives that help inmates get proper identification, as well as encourage them to stay out of the environment that may have influenced their incarceration.

"If a person comes out and he's going right back to the same situation that he was in before he went to prison, he's doomed to continue to repeat the same behaviors," Settles said.

Published: Mon, Apr 4, 2011

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