Over 50,000 inmates are presently incarcerated in Tennessee’s adult prisons and jails. Statistics show 97% of them will one day be released. Nationally, approximately 70% will end up back behind bars within three years. In Tennessee, over 50% of men on parole or probation will return to prison. The Tennessee Department of Corrections budget for 2017 is just shy of $1,000,000,000. This doesn’t include a multitude of hidden costs; costs absorbed by society in the area of health care, welfare, lost taxes, victim costs, additional law enforcement, and increased homelessness.
Even more troubling is that many of these men are husbands and fathers. Incarceration leaves their families struggling through financial troubles, social stigma, residential instability, and behavioral problems. The children, “the innocent, forgotten victims of crime,” will most likely grow up in poverty and see few opportunities outside a life of crime. Research tells us that, without intervention, 70% of inmates’ children end up in prison. These children have children, and the cycle continues for generations.
While many men leave prison intending to live differently, most do not have the skills, resources, or support to establish a new life. Their histories are filled with poverty-stricken childhoods; dysfunctional, abusive, or absent parents; and drug and alcohol abuse. Very few leave prison in better shape than when they entered. When released from prison, a man who expires his sentence receives $75. A man released on probation or parole receives $35. He is also given khakis, a white shirt, and a bus ticket, if he needs it, to anywhere in Tennessee. Most men simply have nowhere to go. Employment prospects are virtually nonexistent for felons, and bridges to family members have often been burned. These men end up returning to their old neighborhoods and falling back into the same life that led them to prison.
Men of Valor knows consistent encouragement, support, accountability, and training are the keys to shaping these men into productive, responsible citizens who become good husbands and fathers. Men of Valor provides Aftercare and Re-entry services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Residential support is of the utmost importance, giving men time to get back on their feet. Job training and job placement are essential because most men do not have marketable skills or a good employment history. Various classes give men the knowledge they need to live a different kind of life: manhood training, budgeting, recovery meetings, Bible studies, job readiness, marriage classes, parent training, etc.
These Aftercare and Re-entry services are the reason that the recidivism rate for men who complete the entire one-year program has stayed at or below 15%. Men of Valor can currently only provide enough resources for a limited number of men to receive the residential support they need to increase their chances of ongoing success. The Men of Valor campus, known as Valor Ridge, will allow us to work with many more men.
We hope that one day, every man who graduates from our prison program will have the opportunity to participate in our residential discipleship academy for one year as they prepare to positively impact their families, our community, and the world.