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Claiborne County commissioners vote to not accept grant for ‘jail to work’ program

Claiborne County commissioners voted Monday night to not accept the $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s INSPIRE Initiative.
Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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TAZEWELL, Tenn. (WVLT) - UPDATE: On Monday April 19, Mayor Joe Brooks said the county commission has voted to not accept the ARC grant. Brooks said the facility will no longer be coming to Claiborne County due to the commissioners voting not to accept the $500,000 grant.

Claiborne County was set to help some incarcerated women in a new program called the “Claiborne County Women’s Jail to Work Program.”

People in rural Appalachia say alcohol and drug abuse is rampant, destroying friendships, families and lives in their communities.

The Claiborne County government received a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s INSPIRE (Investments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems) Initiative.

“Every great outcome starts with that first step, and I see this being a really great first step,” said Joe Brooks, Claiborne County Mayor on Friday.

The program was set to be an opportunity for nonviolent female offenders to have a chance to pull themselves out of addiction.

“We go into the pods, into the jail. And we talk to the groups of women that are in there, about the program. So they have the option to see. Is this for me? Do I want to apply for this? And so that’s the start because they have to want to do something different,” said Sharon Reid, the Senior Director of the Helen Ross McNabb Center in Hamblen County.

Reid’s program mirrors the one that was supposed to begin in Claiborne County. According to her, the Hamblen County program has had a success rate of 87 percent.

“Nobody seeks to be incarcerated. Nobody chooses to be an addict. There’s reasons they’re numbing things with chemicals. So we have to build that relationship and care about people and get them the services that they need so it’s not just a revolving door,” explained Reid.

McNabb Center staff’s goal was to look for the root of the problem and help addicts tackle issues like mental health, addiction and job skills.

It’s a 12-week program where people will stay in a facility. Some of the local employers that agreed to help the women providing them jobs upon completion of the program include: Homesteaders Trailers, England Furniture Company and SRK.

“Our goal is to give them the services they need to transition from incarceration to being a productive member of society and not just productive, but living a life that’s worth living,” said Reid.

The county hoped the program will be up and running to help up to 45 women within the next year.

“To be able to give women an opportunity, a second chance at life, it is very rewarding,” said Raneika Greenlee, who will be the Services Coordinator for the Helen Ross McNabb Center in Claiborne County.

He shared he was grateful for the commissioner’s support in this program.

A local philanthropist, Edwin Robinson had the building for the facility years ago. He died and the church he left it to was looking to sell it, so the commissioners got it on the contingency of getting the grant.

The building is just steps from the jail.

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