At the direction of the U.S. Attorney General, in early 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice launched a review of the criminal justice system in order to identify reforms that would ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and—in an era of reduced budgets—more efficiently, said officials.
Five goals were identified as a part of this review:
To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities;
To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system;
To ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent offenders;
To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism; and,
To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations.
This initiative, which the Department named “Smart on Crime”, was implemented locally by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, partnering with the Chief of the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office, Tony Anderson, and his staff. The local program focused on ways to make the district safer by providing federal ex-offenders with the resources necessary to successfully re-enter the community and reduce recidivism.
Over the past year, stakeholders and others have assisted ex-offenders participating in the SOCI program by connecting them with resources such as: educational programs at community colleges and universities; relationship building skills; furniture to aid with independent living; and a welcoming church to facilitate faith-based healing.
Stakeholders who contributed to the Chattanooga effort included: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Bureau of Prisons Half-Way House; United Way 2-1-1; Tennessee Department of Human Services, Pastor Ternae Jordan and Mt. Canaan Baptist Church; Career Center; Chattanooga State Community College; BlueCross BlueShield; the Marion County Chaplain; Labor and Workforce Development; and Johnson Mental Health. Stakeholders contributing to the Knoxville reentry effort included: Knoxville Leadership Foundation; Tennessee Department of Safety; Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries; Knox County Health Department; Knoxville Police Department; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Susannah House; Helen Ross McNabb; Cokesbury Church; the office of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero; and Pastor James Davis and Eternal Life Harvest Center. Finally, stakeholders who contributed to the Johnson City reentry effort included: Grace Fellowship Church; Summit Leadership Foundation; Frontier Health; Families Free; East Tennessee State University; First Christian Church; Grace Fellowship Church; Christ The Savior Greek Orthodox Church; Tri-Cities Baptist Church; St. Mary’s Catholic Church; Calvary Church; Boone’s Creek Christian Church; Faith Miracle Sanctuary; Dr. Tim Dunn and Spine and Sports Chiropractic; Carrabba’s Italian Grill; Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Johnson City Police Department. This group of stakeholders represented only a select sample of the community leaders who dedicated time and resources to this effort.
Between January and December 2016, participants in the SOCI program engaged the stakeholders and used provided resources to facilitate their successful re-entry. In addition to completing the program through attendance and stakeholder use and engagement, participants stayed in compliance with their supervised release conditions imposed by the courts.
U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr is pleased to announce that approximately 31 ex-offenders successfully completed the SOCI program in 2016. “As a result, these ex-offenders are in a better positon to become productive members of our communities, making east Tennessee a safer and better place to live," said U.S. Attorney Harr. "Our efforts in this area will continue into 2017 with a special emphasis on juvenile offenders. I would further like to commend Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooklyn Sawyers for her leadership, dedication, and coordination of the SOCI program for the district."