Thank you, Commissioner Charles Traughber. It’s a pleasure to join you – and Director Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioners Derrick Scofield and Doug Varney, and so many other critical partners – in celebrating the grand opening of The Next Door Chattanooga, and looking forward to the new beginnings, the second chances, and the hope and healing that this release center will provide.
I’d also like to recognize Linda Leathers for her leadership, and her commitment to serving women and communities in need. And I especially want to thank Angela Miller and Laticka Burgins for courageously sharing their story with us, and reminding us why this new facility and the work we’ve gathered to strengthen are so important. Today marks an important step forward in expanding the reach and critical impact of The Next Door’s work – and I have no doubt that, here in Chattanooga, this innovative center will build on the success that’s been achieved across Tennessee to assist women in crisis.
For nearly a decade now, since a small group of women began meeting in a vacant building in Nashville – the transitional housing opportunities and essential services that The Next Door provides have touched hundreds of lives across this state. And its growing network of supporters has helped our nation honor its commitment to strive – not only for justice, but for healing; and to help those whose lives have been devastated by crime, shattered by substance abuse, and plagued by addiction find the strength to recover and to overcome past mistakes by building healthy, hopeful futures.
Today, we know that these public safety challenges cannot be addressed through enforcement alone – but instead must be met by a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry. By engaging stakeholders at every level of government and law enforcement – as you’ve done here in Tennessee – and by strengthening our partnerships with, across, and beyond the nonprofit sector, you’ve shown that we can help women to break the cycle of addiction; to rise above the effects of poverty, crime, and violence; and to take new ownership of their lives. This is the type of innovative work that The Next Door is leading each day and, now, brings to the Chattanooga community. Here, residents will be able to seek counseling for addiction and mental health issues, learn parenting skills, and acquire essential job training.
In the coming months and years, as we work to fill these rooms, and to help scores of women return to their families and communities, we also must rededicate ourselves to expanding these efforts – and broadening their reach – to include cities and towns throughout Tennessee and across the country.
Every year, nearly three quarters of a million people are released from jails and prisons across America. To help address the unique needs and challenges that they face – and to more effectively reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars, and protect our communities – I have convened a Cabinet-level “Reentry Council” to help identify best practices; leverage resources; and support reentry programs, substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing, mentoring, and other reentry services.
Today, I am proud to report that – thanks to the tireless advocacy of leaders like Director Kerlikowske, organizations like The Next Door, and key partners like each of you – our commitment to this work has never been stronger, and our potential for future progress has never been greater.
Programs like this release center form the cornerstone of these efforts. They provide not only a critical path to successful reentry, but a promising model that can be replicated in communities across America.
Let me assure you today that supporting and advancing this work will continue to be a priority – not only for our nation’s Department of Justice – but for this Administration.
Once again, thank you all for your tireless efforts, and for your enduring commitment to providing help – and healing – to so many of our most vulnerable neighbors. I am proud to join you in celebrating the grand opening of The Next Door Chattanooga Release Center – and I look forward to all we will accomplish together.