By Matthew Torres. CREATED Feb 6, 2015 - UPDATED: Feb 6, 2015
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new non-profit organization in north Nashville is helping released inmates stay out of prison.
Executive Director Tamika Braden started The Help Center to support ex-offenders who cannot find a stable job and home because of their criminal history.
Braden started the idea in December and is planning to open the doors on Monday.
“I have always wanted to start one, but did not have the guts to do it,” Braden said. “I feel if we are going to release someone back to society, we should give them a chance to take care of themselves.”
There are currently 1.6 million people incarcerated in federal and state prisons in the U.S., according to the Corrections Corporation of America. Three out of every four inmates will be arrested again upon release.
According to latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, Tennessee had more than 43,000 inmates in local jails or prisons.
“I just feel everyone deserves a second chance,” Braden explained.
The HELP Center is already working with seven transitional homes, and businesses willing to hire ex-offenders. They also aim to provide moral support and adequate training to maintain a lifestyle useful to society.
“I go to classes, take support and receive help but it doesn’t always lead anywhere,” said Stavon Riley, a former inmate released more than eight years ago. “Nevertheless, I keep trying.”
Riley has been on the other side of the law since he was 15-years-old. The father of an 8-year-old girl is now staying at a halfway house and plans to use the help from the center to get back on his feet.
“It’s not that we don’t want to work, don’t want to go to school or don’t want to pay bills, but I feel we deserve some type of leeway,” Riley said. “We don’t expect it to be given it to us, but we need the help.”
More than 650,000 inmates are released every year and about two-thirds of them go back, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The CCA said the problem of recidivism can go down if inmates participate in education programs and vocational training, find employment, and receive substance abuse help.
“Everyone who has been released from incarceration or been through it should take advantage of any type of help,” Riley added.
The center has yet to officially open, but Braden hopes to serve more than 400 former inmates in the area and expand to nine more states.
The center is located on 3918 Dickerson Road, Suite 110.
The group is looking for more volunteers and donations for supportive services such as bus passes, work uniforms, identification cards and deposit for housing.
You can call them at (615) 891-2659 or visit www.thehelpcentertn.org.