A new program by the Tennessee Department of Correction is trying to help offenders successfully re-enter society, and it launched this morning with a prayer breakfast in Johnson City.
In 2006, guest speaker Dennis Mansfield sat in jail on drug charges, and he says everything about him needed to change.
That same year, it did - when he found God. Now, a free man for over 3 years, he is a successful business owner in Johnson City. "God has built me up to the place where I've gotten married, I restored my family," he says.
Now it's important for him to share his story as part of the TDOC's new Take One Initiative. Its goal is to find volunteers from churches and non-profit organizations to mentor offenders in hopes they can re-enter society.
William Gupton, TDOC assistant commissioner of rehabilitative services, says success stories should be recognized, "46 percent of the offenders will return in 3 years, but what we miss is the 54 percent that are successful and never return," he says.
Steve Humphreys, vice chairman of Take One, says the program enhances public safety. "They don't have to revert back to a life of crime to achieve their needs. If they don't have to revert back to crime, our communities will be safer," he says.
Ultimately, the TDOC wants you to know that offenders are good people that made bad choices. "Once they've served their time, it's time to rehabilitate and get them back into the community," Gupton says.
Like Mansfield, a testament that sometimes support is all an offender needs. "The only way to change is to change everything about you. And also you need a network of people around you," he says.
The goal of the initiative is to get teams of two to mentor an offender three to six months before release and a year afterwards. If you're interested in volunteering locally, contact the Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.