If employment and rehabilitation are important to the TN DOC, why have they made it more difficult?

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By Sandy . . . Ask anyone in law enforcement what the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system is, or at least what it should be, and a great many of them will answer, “Rehabilitation.”

A search of a few random states on this issue yielded remarkably similar results:

NH: . . .  services that promote successful re-entry into society . . .

TX: . . . promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society . . .

FL: . . . support the improvement and readiness of lives in our custody . . .  by providing programming for productive learning, positively transforming behaviors, and teaching pro-social skills that assists with re-integration into communities.

CA: . . . various rehabilitation programs that seek to improve the likelihood that offenders will lead a productive, crime‑free life upon release from prison . . .

And even Tennessee: The Tennessee DOC’s mission has always been to operate safe and secure prisons to enhance public safety in Tennessee through incarceration and rehabilitation of felony offenders.

Ask those same people what a key element of rehabilitation and successful community reentry is, and they will say, “Employment. Gainful employment.”

Again, this is verified and reinforced by a number of sources:

The Prison Policy Initiative says, “The strongest predictor for recidivism: poverty.”

A Harvard Study, “Successful reentry: a community-level analysis” (2018) stresses the importance of, not only employment, but employment with opportunity for upward mobility.

And the Tennessee Department of Correction, in its section about jobs in prison, announces, “It is our desire that participation in prison jobs will be the basis for instilling good work ethics that will continue when the offender is released.”

Why then, why, has Tennessee placed a major impediment in the path of a portion of its “felony offenders”? Why, with one hand, do they bother offering job experiences that they hope will lay the path to employment once released when, with the other hand, they do everything they can to shut off avenues of employment to those with sexual crime convictions?

Those who have been incarcerated for a sexual offense already face a host of impediments to rehabilitation and employment. Tennessee is one of the states in our nation that has codified a state-wide distance restriction for those on the sexual offense registry. Tennessee’s is especially onerous and odious. It is for a thousand feet; it restricts registrants from living, staying at, or accepting employment at a host of child-centered places; and it applies to everyone on the registry, regardless of whether or not their offense involved a child and regardless of whether or not they are under supervision.

Not satisfied with making it extremely difficult for a registrant to find employment – or housing – in any Tennessee town or city, the Tennessee Sexual Offense Registry now requires the place of employment for each registrant be listed as part of the public registry. So now for those Tennesseans who managed to defy the odds and find gainful employment, there is a new obstacle: an employer who is not thrilled to have his address show up on the state’s sexual offense registry.

Tennessee is not alone in requiring this information. A host of other states do, and prison reform advocates in those states report employment offers being retracted when company owners found out their addresses would be listed on the registry, and there are also some reports of registrants losing their jobs or having other unpleasantries occur. Anecdotal instances have also been reported of employers and company owners being harassed or threatened, of them losing customers, and even of property being damaged.

The Tennessee Department of Correction says that part of its mission is the rehabilitation of those it serves. It further says that preparing for employment after release is important.

And then the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, managed by the DOC, takes a step that will not lower recidivism, will not protect children, and will not make society any safer, but does make everything else they have said a lie.

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20 Thoughts to “If employment and rehabilitation are important to the TN DOC, why have they made it more difficult?”

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  1. Perry P.

    It’s obvious. Once again The Registry System proves that it will go against ANY Potentially Successful Initiative that anyone on The Registry can take to get through not only Supervision, but also re-connect successfully into Society as a whole. I am convinced that, The Federal and Every State Legislature in the Nation, really wants those of us on The Registry to fail at any endeavor we undertake for real positive change, and Die. No ‘Respectful Politician’ will ever campaign on Criminal Justice Reform that actually WILL give Us a real chance to show that We WANT to change for The Better. They’d never get Elected if any of them ever did and everyone knows it!

  2. Gary

    Thank you, Sandy. Tennessee is an interesting example. Look at Alabama sometime; it’s way worse than Tennessee’s, starting with 2,000 feet and mail notification of every home and business in that circle. Businesses in my circle have made it clear they do not want me as a customer, let alone employee. It’s a sport in the sheriff’s departments down here, harassing registrants until they can find a technicality to convict and lock them up again–score! Got another one! High five. (I’ve seen them do this during my quarterly pilgrimage to pay them for the harassment–celebrating “getting another one.”) There is lots of talk about registries being punishment and that their real intent is that, but what I see even more is how it has become a federally-financed opportunity to assign officers to use their expanded powers as a means to bust people–for anything. It’s taking free citizens and putting them on parole with onerous restrictions (under threat of imprisonment) with certain officers assigned to monitor them like parolees. It’s a government waiver of individual liberties so they can over-police a certain population. To think, I’m from Michigan, but now I need to live in what’s bragged about down here as the harshest SORA in the nation.

  3. Larry T

    Sandy, once again, thank you. But one thing that everyone forgets is that according to the Butner Study, sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated. There is no cure for this mental illness.
    The Butner Study is still the study that is referenced when ever sex offenders are discussed within the DOJ and it’s affiliates.
    Now anyone who has done any research knows that the Butner study is erroneous in just about every aspect, but it is still what is used as gospel within the law enforcement world.
    Until we can change the basis for the instilled belief system nothing is going to happen. We live in a world of ignorance and misinformation that is presented as absolute fact.
    People are not taught how to think, but are indoctrinated and told what to think.
    God bless you all and don’t forget to turn off your lights Sunday night.

    1. LL

      You’re far too kind in calling the Bunter study erroneous. In my opinion, it’s out and out fraudulent. They went into the study with the outcome they wanted in mind and did what it took to get the results they wanted. The sad part is that Dr. Hernadez (sp?) is still practicing in Raleigh, NC!

  4. Kirk

    Absolutely true!! Tennessee is one of the worst sex offender registries inhibiting rehabilitation. Even registrants that live in another state who are gainfully employed and must travel to Tennessee to attend a work conference. Tennessee requires the registrant to register within 48 hours and applies the work distances restriction from the registrant’s conference hotel because they consider attending a work conference actual work. I was denied attending a conference in Nashville because a park and church was within 1,000 feet of the conference hotel. I had to turnaround and leave even after they required me to register. Tennessee certainly isn’t a state that promotes positive rehabilitation.

  5. Mother

    I hope that in my lifetime I will see this horrific and never ending punishment be realized that it’s like what people did to witches back in the day. It’s the only crime that keeps you firmly in its clutches long after you’ve paid you dues. …or in some cases indefinitely. Being made a target in your home and in the workplace is absurd. I’m living paranoid that a vigilante is going to come for my son and attempt to become a “hero”. I have cameras surrounding my home – security lights and several very protective large dogs.
    It’s not one size fits all. But that’s how the registry works. People are being are lumped together and treating all the same nonetheless. I often wish for a world catastrophe so great that all this B.S. becomes a nothing burger.

    1. jim

      Mother! I totally agree with Everything you have posted. These people in this country need something for real to be afraid of. Everything is to easy for everyone now, so all the people in this country look for now is how to try to look better than anyone else by forcing their opinion on their neighbor. An attack on this arrogant country would be a start to get the people to look beyond their own nose and try to help others and not to hurt others for their own pride. The sad part is the crazed attack on ” Witches” was allowed for hundreds of years before the ignorant people here, got their head removed from their hind side and wiped the poop out of their own eyes so they could truly see what was happening. Going to be a long fight and dont back down. Lets Go Brandon!!! P.S. There is more than large dogs that you can do to protect your self. Check your local laws on what you and your son can use to protect your self’s. You will be surprised! God Bless all of us.

  6. Kathie

    I know one employer who wanted to help people with criminal convictions have a second chance. However, when he heard that his address would be on the public sex offender registry he said he could not go that far.

  7. TJ

    Another great article Sandy!
    Ohio also has proposed a new bill, HB 459 prohibiting offenders from employment or volunteering involving minors. Sounds useful & safe preventing those convicted of sexual crimes with a minor not to be permitted to work around minors. UNTIL we think of Romeo & Juliet instances PLUS the fact that the bill further suggests implementing a policy whereby those registrants who are employed would need to have their employer sign off every 90 days listing the job duties performed & stating that the registered employee have not been around minors. One has to really ponder the logic in creating reasons to hinder employment opportunities of which are proven to lead to successful reentry and life post-conviction.

  8. Derek

    I lost my job in Massachusetts because the state requires you to register your job and the police came to my work showing my picture asking if I work there. The next day I was laided off. It’s like the state doesn’t want you to have a job and be gainfully employed.

  9. Kat

    Tn could care less about registrants. A chain restaurant that routinely hired registrants who were great, long term employees, suddenly fired all registrants at all it’s restaurants and. Hanged their corporate policy on hiring registrants. Why? Because one of their none registrant employee trouble makers decided it would be fun to do an internet search on all his co-workers. Then he spread the word that registrants worked there. Presto, all registrants we’re let go with no warning and no explanation. TN doesn’t care and those in charge of the registry are inhumane.

  10. WC_TN

    It is nothing but government sanctioned harassment. It is hate and harassment. The intent is to permanently destroy us just like they claim we destroyed our victims. Both eyes for an eye and all our teeth for a tooth. Payback with interest.

  11. Sasha

    They could do this because they can. Also, there are sooo many rules, regulations that probably conflict with each other
    Take New York State. This system has what is considered an area in the prison just for PFRs who are now on parole or post supervision release (there is a difference). These people are stuck thetr until THEY could fulfill requirements placed upon then like find a residence, etc.. This without any real resources given to them nor anyone from outside agencies having to visit them.
    While they are in these Residential Treatment Facilities, they are suppose to be allowed to leave the location to obtain and/or seek housing, employment, education, etc.. BUT they are NOT allowed to leave the facility. They MUST abide by parole rules as well as prison rules and could be violated for infractions while in prison.
    So much litigation has been dragging on, many ruling against them resulting in people spending additional years in prison even beyond their court sentence, all in the name of post release and the protection of the public.
    To the it is just to complicated. Many believe there is no such thing as being successful or integration back to society for THEM all the while forgetting that they have loved ones, family, etc, which includes low recidivism rates. To make it difficult as possible is what I have seen so far.
    You know what I see, people not liking mandates for them but love mandates for others.
    A little off track there, sorry.
    I believe they know this, but do not care. I formulated a brief for a PFR for a level hearing to lower it. He met and exceeded all requirements. However, the courts did not care because they wanted to exercise its judgment and kept him at the highest level.
    They know. If they started following and doing what is correct, they would have no one to call the boogeyman or er person and funds would dry up.
    Best of all to everyone!!
    Oh and this Halloween thingy with the curfew is useless. Some of the areas that I know each town has imposed a curfew for 3 days upon people under 16, unless accompanied by an adult. It is to protect them and property. Other locations they have a block set up for a mini kids party and trick or treat on that block only.
    Kind of defeats the purpose of the per curfews.
    Best to all!

  12. John S

    Sadly, Arkansas can match Alabama in one aspect–the residency restrictions here are also set at 2,000 feet. Plus, a Level 4 registrant is also banned from living less than 2,000 feet from any “place of worship”. (Arkansas does have 4 levels, but the structure and system are no better than, and in quite a few comparisons, worse than what stands in other states.)
    At the Conference I talked with several attendees about a program/exercise/challenge that produced some surprising results. Some persons were challenged to “experience” what it’s like for a person transitioning from prison back into the community. Long story short, every single participant failed and wound up “back in prison. ALL the participants were PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS!
    I have received the program used for this challenge, and I understand other versions are available. If anyone wants a copy of what I have, let me know. I believe the program could be “tweaked” to more specifically focus on registrants and their–our–situations. If this program can be in any way helpful for anyone, all the better.
    The complacency of and the ignorance far too many people still have about SO laws, registries, and the collateral damage needs repeated attacking, with solid, peer-reviewed research at the forefront.

  13. mut

    i guess the founders were just filling empty space when they banned bills of pains and penalties and ex post facto laws in the same section of the constitution.

  14. Out of the country for good!

    Good article Sandy, reading this proves to me that I’d made a good decision to get the heck out of the so-called land of the free and the so-called home of the brave.

    Retirement help and leaving before they put the passport red star for S.O. and requirements of notification.

    Expecting a change in our lifetimes wasn’t in my book.
    Even if you had to get a boat and go to Cuba, do it for the freedom of living free again or stay and face more punishment after the fact.

    Keep up the fight NARSOL.

  15. TS

    Call what it is, a criminal legal system, not a criminal justice system.

  16. CJB

    If there are not more hurdles to JUMP!!!!

    So do ‘these’ people call the employers’ of Drunk Drivers, Shop Lifters, Wife Beaters, and other Felonious Convictions?

    No!

    ‘They’ just embarrass and harass those ‘persons forced to register’; 99.9% of whom are fully in compliance and happily employed and trying yo keep their financial head above WATA, and they do this kind of ‘SHEEEEET’

  17. Josh

    You could ask this same question to every single state in the union. There is nothing but punitive measures in SO laws. This is why I choose to give a middle finger to the US and moved outside of that terrible country.

  18. Tim in WI

    Did I just read the database mentioned in the same sentence as upward mobility? Why yes, I did! This is the folly in suggesting the database and infrastructure wasn’t intended specifically to impose affirmative restraint. But few care if the restraint is imposed upon others, especially the child sex offender. Plenty of evidence already exists of examples of abridging in speech via the databases use. That was the crux of Packingham. Big tech often silences those who oppose the protection in law regarding liability for the use of their platforms by others. The same way and reason registrants object to the third party misuse of the registration and notification regimes to attack those on it. Such complaints are reasonable in light of the dangers involved. I still think the problem is with the uses of the machine by surveillance types and those who’d benefit from unwarranted collection of data. And suspicion
    is growing among the people concerning the databases use in election processes. Why would they not be aware?