U.S. Attorney talks with group about offender re-entry

U.S. Attorney talks with group about offender re-entry

February 21st, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee Bill Killian addresses those gathered at a Community Think Tank about federal prosecution and crime at the Hamilton County Coalition on Thursday.

U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee Bill Killian addresses...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

In the span of a half-hour talk on the work of the federal prosecution in eastern Tennessee, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian laid out the raw numbers of his staff's work, dozens of duties and the rising threat of heroin in this part of the state.

But what caught the most attention of the audience of 20 people at the Hamilton County Coalition office off Central Avenue was existing and new felon rehabilitation efforts.

Glenwood neighborhood block leaders coordinator Everlena Holmes said she was impressed with what she'd heard from Killian about efforts to assist high-risk offenders with re-entry into the community after incarceration.

But, she said work should start earlier than when those convicted of crimes leave prison.

"A lot of times people have these nice programs, but they fall through because it's not a true commitment over a long period of time," Holmes said.

Holmes splits time between Chattanooga and her home in Pennsylvania where she works as an observer with the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

There she said work begins within the prison at least a year before release and continues with mentoring and community contacts, employer communication and services.

"Have wrap-around services, make sure that their needs are met," she said.

One component -- neighborhood education -- caught the coalition Director Camilla Bibbs-Lee's attention.

She and others asked about how to best prepare neighborhoods and communities for offender return.

Bibbs-Lee said the coalition and other groups could work to connect local churches, families and other agencies with services, even as a simple referral network for prison returnees.

"It has to be a comprehensive approach, it can't just be finding that person a house, it has to be providing that person with support and services," she said.

Killian showcased programs such as The Next Door here, along with rehabilitative programs in Johnson City, Knoxville and Winchester.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP