New program to help female criminals from re offending

An $800,000 grant, designated to reduce crime in the Mountain Home and downtown areas of Johnson City, is helping initiate around 20 programs. Each programs has a specific objective, that fits into one of four crime-fighting strategies: Pre-enforcement, enforcement, neighborhood revitalization, and offender intervention.

News Channel 11's Kylie McGivern looked into just one of the programs this grant, for the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project, made possible –  hoping to make a difference through offender intervention.

“It just keeps going on and on and on, generation after generation,” Johnson City Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green said.

After generations of danger, poverty and abuse, non-profit organization Families Free in Johnson City, is working to slow a vicious merry-go-round.

“If we don't break that cycle now, then we're going to have tremendous problems ongoing,” Green said, of getting female offenders back on their feet, and back to their families.

Crime data put together specifically for the grant (through the Office of Criminal Justice Programs) showed a glaring indication of offenders going through the system, only to return home to areas in the downtown and Mountain Home area, to commit another crime.

“You can watch the news, on any given week there is usually at least two situations where there is a woman who commits a crime, and at the end of the story it will say the children are now in the custody of the department of children's services. What we're doing now is not working. It isn't working,” Families Free Executive Director Lisa Tipton said.

“We see these people all the time and we know that some of these people that we arrest time after time, could be helped if perhaps they get the right services, ” Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said. “Will it help everybody? No it will not help everybody. Will it help a few? Yes, it will help a few, we're very confident in that. And we're hoping we can break that cycle as a community, and as part of the larger picture of this grant.”

For women, those services will soon be available through the Day Reporting Center, just one of the at least 18 programs initiated through the crime reduction grant.

“Through the Day Reporting Center, each woman will be able to have an individual assessment, determine what her needs are, most of the time that involves alcohol and drug treatment, individual counseling, then a wide variety of other services,” Tipton said.

Tipton says the center will also have a global employment specialist to help women find jobs, anger management, parenting education, and spiritual development.

Dara Powell, who will oversee the Day Reporting Center and make contact with outside resources to assist women in getting the help they need, said, “My hope is that they'll really see some kind of change in their life, they'll have that experience where they see their self worth, and they can apply that to every aspect of their life – with their children, in their job, wherever this program may help lead them.”

“We have to get involved in a deep level in the lives of these women, that's not just a drive by. It's not just a phone number, it's not just a piece of paper, but we have got to truly walk alongside of them as they unpack some of the reasons that they have gotten to the point that they're at in their life now,” Tipton said.

“If we as individual community members can truly meet people at the point of their need…they can begin to believe that they can have a future that's not determined by their past, and not determined by the choices they made up to this point,” Tipton said.

A future that breaks the cycle, and begins one of healing.

To qualify for this program, one must an offender that is either living, or has commit a crime in the downtown or Mountain Home neighborhood.

There will also be a recidivism program for men, which is starting from the ground up. News Channel 11 will have a story on that program in the coming weeks.

For more information on Families Free, visit: 

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