A couple of weeks ago I wrote about reasons we can be grateful to live in Tennessee, one of them being Governor Lee’s emphasis on helping people in our jails return to society and live productive lives.

That priority resulted in the Reentry Success Act of 2021, which is sending funds to this county and many others through the Evidence-Based Programming (EBP) grant. “Evidence-Based” programs have been used before and evidence proves they are effective – tried and true, you might say. With these funds, we are helping these men and women – sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers - reclaim their lives.

We were one of the first counties to receive the EBP award in September 2021. It included $76,000 and separately, computer tablets for the jail classroom given free of charge by the state Department of Labor. We contracted with TCAT-Pulaski to bring its OSHA 10 Certified Production Technology (CPT) course to the jail, a 10-week class that starts over with a new group of students after each session is complete.

The grant also provided a part-time instructor to work in our jail with staff from South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance’s Pathway Home program, which continues to provide education, counseling, and social services in Lawrence, Giles, Wayne, and Maury County jails with funding from other grant programs.

As the end of the year-long EBP grant grew near, we were given an opportunity to extend it and request up to a million more dollars. Our plan expanded the initial offerings and added new ones, and we were awarded a total of $938,705 to fund the plan over the next three years, beginning November 1, 2022.

The extension is providing:

* A full-time instructor who will work with individuals and small groups on skills they need. Education plans for each person will be developed with a case worker from the Pathway Home project. Computer tablets given in 2021 by the Department of Labor are loaded with educational programs that promote success following release from jail. The grant also provides materials for other substance use disorder recovery programs.

* A dedicated internet line (installation and monthly subscription) for those computer tablets.

* An instructor and materials to continue the TCAT-Pulaski OSHA 10 Certified Production Technology course in the jail. Students are required to complete the CPT course before taking other TCAT classes described below.

* A five-week TCAT-Pulaski MIG Welding for Industry certification course provided to two students at a time at Advanced Design Solutions (ADS) in the former Murray building. ADS owner Mark Booker is generously providing the space, two welding stations, and tools for this course. Grant funds pay for the instructor, materials, ankle bracelet monitors for students, and transportation costs.

NOTE: The MIG Welding Class will begin after TCAT-Pulaski can hire an instructor to take over the OSHA-10 Certified Production Technology course, currently being led by the welding teacher. There have been very few applicants. To learn more, go to https://tcatpulaski.edu/about/jobs-and-employment. The position is called Manufacturing Awareness/Readiness Program Part-time Facilitator.

* Beginning Fall 2023, a five-week TCAT-Pulaski Plumber’s Helper certification course provided to two students at a time at Lawrence County Government’s maintenance headquarters. The grant is providing the instructor, materials, ankle bracelet monitors, transportation costs, and two plumbing installation simulators that will be built by TCAT for the class. Both MIG Welding and Plumber’s Helper courses will run continuously: when two complete the course, another session begins.

We are so grateful to the State of Tennessee for the funds to make all this possible. Thanks also to our partners TCAT-Pulaski, South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, and Mark Booker for their role in offering a new chance at life to incarcerated men and women.