Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Prison re-entry program - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Prison re-entry program

By Ursula Madden - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Keeping criminals from becoming repeat offenders can help take back our neighborhoods.  It's a strategy adopted by Shelby County government through a prison reentry program called the 3R-project. 

One the project's many goals is to teach inmates how to become responsible fathers. When you watch John Jones play with his 10-month old daughter, it is very easy to forget he is in prison.

"This is my motivation right here," he said. "The reason I'm going to change my life is that little girl right there."

Jones is fighting for custody.  He didn't find out about his baby until after he was locked up.  The child is in foster care now, but is allowed to visit with her dad five hours a month.  The visits happen in a very child-friendly room set up for inmates who volunteer for the Shelby County Department of Corrections rehabilitation program 3R.

"Drugs was a part of my life and I don't want to ever go back to that," he said. "The only thing I want to be a is a responsible father.  It's what I'm taking this class for."

The class is the Responsible Fatherhood program.  Thirty inmates are enrolled, in the class, which is part of the Shelby County Corrections 3R project.

Roughly 30 inmate dads are enrolled in the class, which is part of Shelby County Corrections 3R project.

3R is a federally funded.  It targets inmates, only160 at a time, who have six months to a year left on their sentence.  3R teaches them skills for life on the outside- how to get and keep a job, how to manage money, how to manage anger, and how to be a good father.

"I'm actually learning from this class to use intellect as opposed to emotions, to weigh out the consequences of a certain action before I do it," Jones said.

Napoleon Johnson takes the class.

"I've got a little girl who really looks up to me," Johnson said. "And I want her to see me as a role model. I want her when she's around her friends when she talks about her daddy, she's got good things to say about me.  I'm really focusing on my family now as opposed to the selfishness that I used to focus on."

Also in the class is Joaqun Garcia.

"I have one son, that I haven't even met or seen," he said.

Garcia's son is one year old.  He's angry the child's family will not allow visits, but he understands why, and he's hopeful about what will happen when he gets out.

"I have good hopes of finding him, and take the proper action, and be a part of his life somehow," Garcia said.

But for now, it's back to class, and a countdown for release.  For John Jones, that's November.

"I know she needs someone out there to love and care for her, and that's me," Jones said.

Jones says he wishes he could go through the fatherhood course again before he gets out, but added that failure is not an option.

The inmates in the 3R project are separated from the general population, and even wear different clothing.  There are strict rules to participate, and those who break the rules get bounced back to the general population.

3R is funded by a five year grant from Health and Human Services.  Data is still being collected to determine if the program is working to keep inmates from going back to prison.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. 

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