Knoxville program opens to help former inmates re-enter society
A new Knoxville reentry program called Men of Valor has opened its doors for 30 formerly incarcerated men to have a place to call home.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new Knoxville reentry program called Men of Valor has opened its doors for 30 formerly incarcerated men to have a place to call home and community.
Men of Valor is a “faith-based nonprofit focused on reducing recidivism among ex-offenders.” It’s located at 211 Jessamine Street where a former Knoxville motel opened in the 1950s and hosted Ray Charles.
Josh Smith, the founder of the Fourth Purpose Foundation, purchased the building, remodeled it and leased it to Men of Valor. Smith was sentenced to five years in prison when he was 21. He said his troubled past which began when he was 12 years old led him to begin Fourth Purpose.
“Programs like this are extremely important to our communities,” Smith said. “When I came out of prison, there was no housing. Because of my background, my wife was even kicked out of her government housing.”
Men of Valor’s grand opening and ribbon cutting offered a chance for WVLT News to talk with one of the first residents. Michael Ramey was released from prison 10 days ago.
“God really changed my life and been a big presence in my life,” Ramey said.
Ramey was convicted of murder when he was a teen and spent more than 30 years in prison. Now, he’s out on parole.
“It’s nothing like you can even imagine. Nobody could tell me this. How nice the place is, how good the people are and how invested they are in helping me, and I’ve never had that before so it’s just wonderful,” Ramey explained.
Ramey was introduced to Men of Valor inside Trousdale Prison for the last 18 months he was in there.
He applied to be a part of this program and was selected to join. When he got out, he came straight to Men of Valor and received food, clothing, housing, mentoring, counseling, bible study and more.
“It’s hard to live in prison with no hope when you’re a young man, and you see a life sentence and you think, ‘I’m never going to get out, how am I going to survive, how am I going to live through this,’ and I didn’t know how that was going to happen,” Ramey said. “And then I met Christ and his greatness was present and that’s how I made it. It wasn’t because of what I did. It was because of what he’s done.”
In the U.S. 70% of people will return to prison within three years of being released, according to statistics provided by Men of Valor. The rate for men who complete Men of Valor’s one-year aftercare and reentry program is below 15%.
“We know that there are incarcerated individuals that are going to be coming back into our communities. We know that there is a high likelihood that they will re-commit crimes unless they engage in a re-entry process that brings them hope,” Governor Bill Lee said.
The program also offers job readiness training and money management help.
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