MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There is a new rehabilitation program in the Mid-South that's taking former inmates and helping them give back to their community.
Nathaniel Hurst just got out of jail. After serving two years on a burglary conviction, the Shelby County Department of Corrections dropped him off at its Uptown substation.
"When you get out of jail and you have no where to go, you have only one of two choices. You can go back to the things your were doing, or...it's hard to find work and a place to stay when you don't have any means, to clean yourself up or a place to go," Hurst said.
Homeless and broke, Hurst turned to Free From Unnecessary Negatives founder, Stevie Moore. He met Moore at the Shelby County penal farm through the jail's rehabilitation program, 3R.
"That's why I'm so excited about the 3R program. I see something so progressive, something I didn't have when I was coming through. I didn't have nobody who was trying to bring in speakers that wanted to motivate us and encourage us and get us prepared to get out of jail. See I didn't have that and that's the reason I'm so encouraged by that.," Moore said.
As an ex-con, Moore knows first hand the help non-violent offenders need when they get out.
He hopes to expand the jail's 3R program, by adding a community service component. Allowing inmate volunteers to reconnect with the community by cleaning it up.
Moore calls it his Community Action Project.
"They took something from the community, whether they were robbing, whether they were selling drugs, gang bangin' they took from their community. So I think this is a good way from them to come back and give back to their community," Moore said.
And there is no shortage of neighborhoods in Shelby county struggling with blight.
Moore said he gets frequent calls about the Memphis neighborhood just north of Jackson, an area plagued with overgrown lots that harbor trash and other illegal activity; there's graffiti, not to mention the number of boarded up homes.
Moore said he can envision inmate work crews taking back neighborhoods.
"Where ever the worst part of the city is, we'll pick that as a pilot. Then we'll work that and we'll beautify it.
We'll plant some flowers and gardens where it's necessary, we'll cut the weeds we'll pick up the litter. And we do it consistently week after week after week. It's got to make a difference," Moore said.
It is a service that city and county administrations can't afford.
Nathaniel Hurst believes in the idea.
"Of course it can work, it's working with me," Hurst said.
Hurst plans to volunteer his time by using his construction skills to turn a largely unused basement into a halfway house for former inmates.
"If your mind isn't right you go back to doing the same things you were doing. This time my mind is right," Hurst said.