Tennessee-Based Men of Valor Discuss Prison Reentry and Recidivism Among Inmates

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Formerly incarcerated people can reenter society with faith and with Christians offering them a strong system of support.

These were among some of the remarks that various people made at a virtual forum that members of the Antioch-based Men of Valor prison ministry held this month.

Rudy Kalis, a full-time Men of Valor volunteer, hosted the event.

“When the church business and government come in together [then] collaborative solutions are possible,” Kalis said.

Mercedes Schlapp, a former White House Strategic Communications director, said prison ministries help people find God.

“Many people felt horrible about the crime they had committed and wanted forgiveness,” Schlapp said.

“We know faith plays a critical part in helping them to get through these difficult years that they are in prison. So it is important for prison ministries to play an integral role in connecting with prisoners and that they know they are loved by God and not forgotten.”

Nashville businessman Eddie Hutton, meanwhile, said he has hired convicts after they leave lockup. He advocated that prisons teach vocational arts so that inmates “have a skillset” when they leave.

“I don’t think anybody wants to talk about it, but they [former prisoners] have to learn this felony tag gets taken off their record. It haunts them,” Hutton said.

“A guy working for me has a wife, and a child, and is doing very well, but he still stays depressed about the felony tag. At what point can it be removed? At what point do they earn it to be removed?”

Hutton also said that not all former prisoners are successful as free men.

“One worked for me and was doing well until the pandemic and he was left alone,” Hutton said.

“He gravitated back to his old friends. It’s not an easy road.”

The Rev. Tommy Vallejos, a Men of Valor church coordinator, said pastors “are called to reach out to the lost and people who are abandoned and rejected and have a lifetime of disappointments.”

“We are called to get out of the pews, out of the church walls, and act in faith. We are called to go into the highways and byways,” Vallejos said.

“There are people in your own congregation who, were it not for the Grace of God, would be in prison if it weren’t for a life change.”

Men of Valor is a prison ministry in Middle Tennessee committed to reconciling men to God, their families, and society. As reported, the recidivism rate for Men of Valor participants—with programming both before release and up to a year afterward—is between nine and 15 percent, far lower than the state and national average, which hovers around 70 percent of prisoners who are re-arrested within three years.

In 2018, Men of Valor Program Director Curt Campbell told The Tennessee Star the program originated in 1997. As reported, the program receives money from grants, churches, and mostly individuals. Resources provided include addiction recovery support, employment, housing, healthcare, and teach former prisoners how to transform themselves into better husbands, fathers, and members of society.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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