By BRIAN GRAVES
The Bradley County Workhouse and second chances for inmates was the topic of conversation for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce's Public Affairs Committee Friday morning.Probation …
The Bradley County Workhouse and second chances for inmates was the topic of conversation for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce's Public Affairs Committee Friday morning.
Probation Director Rich Kienlen spoke about the workhouse program and how the local judiciary have been very supportive.
The workhouse allows those
housed there to leave for work during the day and return to
serve their time in the evening.
"Bradley County is blessed," Kienlen said. "We have great judges to work with, the public defender's office works well and the district attorney's office. This work-release program is very much a team effort. I think everyone is on board and they see the benefit of it."
"Our judges are very open that if we have an application and we want them to sign it, they say, 'I'm trusting you,' and they follow through," Kienlen said.
Commissioner Milan Blake said the workhouse cost was $2.2 million.
"I basically told the other commissioners if we are going to spend money on that side, we are also going to spend the money on education and job training because I think there is a direct relationship between them," Blake said. "So, we also bought the American Uniform building. That's how that worked out."
They both noted with the low unemployment rate in the county, there are plenty of job opportunities for those needing a second chance.
Kienlen said there was one employer, who for now wishes to remain anonymous, that has been hiring many of the inmates for jobs.
"We would like to have some testimonials from these employers which say, 'We're hiring these guys and the world didn't end,'" said Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Gary Farlow.
Kienlen said there is a mindset among some employers a criminal record automatically disqualifies someone from work.
"We have to get that mindset changed," Kienlen said. "There is a thought we just put them in jail and throw away the key. Well, they are coming back out. If we want them to be productive for society and their families, we have to give people a chance."
"If you can get them out of poverty and get them in a job, they are less likely to commit a crime," Farlow added "It's a never-ending battle, but something to which we have to keep paying attention."
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