KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An alternative to prison program is bridging the gap for mainly low-level drug offenders. People like Ben Kaiser who devoted many hours a week to the Tennessee Department of Corrections re-entry program are now seeing the hours pay off for him and for our community.
Kaiser is the proud owner of his own construction firm. We first visited with him a few weeks ago and learned that every worker on his team has walked a similar path, now on the road to recovery from a world of drugs and destruction.
Ben also had to make time for intensive re-entry programs at TDOC’s Day Reporting Center, avoiding prison time by investing four days a week, six hours a day in a classroom. The class includes learning life skills and coping mechanisms to help steer clear of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
The culmination of Ben’s hard work and others like him was recognized at a ceremony last week at the City-County Building for the third and largest Day Reporting Center graduation in Knoxville. TDOC says it’s clear the program is a valid replacement to prison for this group.
“Approximately 95% of people who are in custody right now are going to come back to your neighborhood one day, and what we want is to make them healthy,” correctional administrator Sara Hodges said. “We want them to be prepared to make good choices.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is a big believer in the program, and while there are no guarantees each one of these people will stay on the right path, he says the Day Reporting Center offers a strong start.
“Prison is not the answer,” Jacobs said. “I think we all realize now it’s very expensive. It destroys lives and anything we can do to help people stay out of prison, especially low-level drug offenders and to help them remain productive in society is a much better alternative.”
“There is hope for people when they’re stuck in despair,” Kaiser said. “There are people out there that are still willing to help, even though a lot of the world is counting them out.”
The event, falling on the very day one year ago that Ben Kaiser stopped using drugs.
“Just relief,” he said of his emotions. “Really, it’s a lot of hard work making it this far, so I was just relieved to finally graduate.”
Ben now must complete an aftercare program through the Day Reporting Center. It’s one hour a week. He says he looks forward to it.
For more information on the TDOC Day Reporting/Community Resource Center, you can contact the director Sheryl Crouse, by calling 865-403-1630 or email SherylCrouse@tn.gov.
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