The following post appears courtesy of the Office of Justice Programs.
One year ago today, President Obama signed into law historic legislation that provided a necessary jumpstart for our economy. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act we put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges in our county, including challenges within our law enforcement and criminal justice communities.
One such challenge is the successful transition of offenders from prison and jails back into communities. According to the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 1 million women under the supervision of the criminal justice system in the United States. Drug and property crimes are the most likely cause of incarceration. In addition, 95 percent of all prisoners incarcerated today will eventually be released and will return to communities.
However, programs across the United States are helping stem the tide of recidivism through reentry programs that provide transitional services for offenders. Today in Knoxville, Tennessee, Federal, state, and local officials are gathering to celebrate the grand opening of The Next Door, a transitional residential program for women returning to communities from incarceration. This 16-bed facility received seed money from OJP’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Recovery Act Program.
The Knoxville program is modeled after The Next Door in Nashville which, since 2004 has helped over 600 women from the criminal justice system reenter society and rebuild their lives. The Next Door provides important services such as housing, mental health and substance abuse support services, and workforce development. The structured curriculum provides job preparation, readiness, communication skills and conflict management to support retention, and career planning. In 2009, 107 out of 143 clients of The Next Door in Nashville were able to find jobs through assistance provided by the program. A third Next Door location, in Chattanooga, will open in early summer 2010.
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) noted the importance of The Next Door project, saying:
The Recovery Act has stimulated the economy by providing seed money for jobs and funds for programs, like The Next Door. The Next Door model effectively reduces recidivism and drug abuse by approaching the drug problem one woman at a time, from a public health and public safety perspective, and with combined support from law enforcement, the treatment field, faith-based organizations, and the community. Clients of The Next Door receive more than substance abuse treatment and recovery services. They receive dignity, hope, and a second chance to rebuild their lives. Through this process they also learn skills that enable them to become part of the workforce and to make positive contributions to their communities.
Pam S. Hyde, J.D., Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration noted the important role programs like those offered by The Next Door play in our communities:
Reentry programs help people leaving jails and prisons succeed in the community by avoiding a recurrence of crime and drug abuse. Through programs like the Next Door, we are investing Federal resources in peoples’ success, reducing recidivism and strengthening communities.
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen noted the impact the Recovery Act has made at the local level:
The place we most often see the real impact of the stimulus funds provided by the Recovery Act is at the individual or local level. I’m very pleased with this opportunity to replicate a successful program like The Next Door in new locations in Knoxville and Chattanooga with the help of Recovery Act funds.
This Recovery Act grant, administered through OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will support approximately 45 women per year coming from incarceration in Knoxville and surrounding counties. In addition, the grant is supporting three new jobs at The Next Door Knoxville site, in addition to jobs at the organization's locations in Chattanooga and Nashville. These programs break the cycle of drug use, crime, and incarceration; reunite families; and make recovery possible for Americans, key focuses of the Obama Administration’s national drug control strategy and the Justice Department’s Second Chance Act Offender Reentry Initiative.