East TN nonprofit works to change the lives of inmates

East TN nonprofit works to change the lives of inmates

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Nearly 100 people gathered Saturday at Knoxville's Victor Ashe Park for the Focus Fest Walkathon to benefit Focus Group Ministries. Nearly 100 people gathered Saturday at Knoxville's Victor Ashe Park for the Focus Fest Walkathon to benefit Focus Group Ministries.
"It was tremendous, like night and day. The curriculum, we learned authentic manhood, we learned how to take care of our families, how to handle our money," said Brad Austin, who now works with Focus Group. "It was tremendous, like night and day. The curriculum, we learned authentic manhood, we learned how to take care of our families, how to handle our money," said Brad Austin, who now works with Focus Group.
"Those that successfully go through the program, it changes their life," said Scott Parker of Focus Group Ministries. "One of the biggest things they face when they get out is just a lack of support." "Those that successfully go through the program, it changes their life," said Scott Parker of Focus Group Ministries. "One of the biggest things they face when they get out is just a lack of support."

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For men and women who find themselves in trouble with the law, getting back into society once they get out of jail can be a difficult transition.

But thanks to an East Tennessee ministry group, these inmates are getting the support they need to find a job and reunite with their families.

Nearly 100 people gathered Saturday at Knoxville's Victor Ashe Park for the Focus Fest Walkathon to benefit Focus Group Ministries.

The faith-based nonprofit works to help local inmates be successful once they get out of prison.

"Those that successfully go through the program, it changes their life," said Scott Parker of Focus Group Ministries. "One of the biggest things they face when they get out is just a lack of support. It's hard to get a job. It's hard to get a place to live."

Focus Group provides life skills classes for them while they're still behind bars so they'll be able to land work once they get out.

"We help them get jobs, do resumes and job training," said Parker.

Saturday's walk also raised money for the six month transition program these men and women take part in once they're out.

"We get them involved in the community and get them a network of support built so that they can make it," said Parker.

But it's not just about getting a job. It's about bringing families back together who've been pulled apart by incarceration.

The inmates take "responsible parenting" courses that they put into practice once they're home again.

"When dad comes back and he's being the man he needs to be, it just changes everything," said Parker.

Focus Group also reaches out to the children of inmates, providing mentors who help fill the void left behind while their parent is in prison.

"If their parents are incarcerated, they have a 75 percent chance that they'll go to prison themselves," said Parker.

Former inmates taking part in the walkathon say the program made all the difference to them and their families.

"It was tremendous, like night and day. The curriculum, we learned authentic manhood, we learned how to take care of our families, how to handle our money," said Brad Austin, who now works with Focus Group. "Both sides of it, with my mother and with my children, families get restored."

The Focus Fest Walkathon also raised money to launch a new mentoring program at the Morgan County Correctional Complex.

The program would be year-long for inmates, organized through Focus Group and the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

For more information, visit Focus Group Ministries' website.

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