Positive results prompt probation program expansion

Becky Campbell • Feb 15, 2014 at 9:20 PM

A specialized intensive probation program funded through a state crime-reduction grant has worked so well in Johnson City it’s being expanded to serve more criminal offenders.

The program is funded through an $800,000 state grant — the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Program — being administered through the Johnson City Police Department. It focuses on a four-prong approach to reducing crime: pre-enforcement, enforcement, neighborhood revitalization and offender intervention.

It’s that last prong, offender intervention, that led to the creation of the Day Reporting Center as a new program at the local probation office.

“We’ve partnered with Alternative Community Corrections, the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Frontier Health,” which does drug and alcohol and individual counseling, TCCRP Director Becky Haas said. “Also, Goodwill Industries of TenneVa Area created a position where they come in and do employment training and how to do online searches. We also have UT Extension doing a class on how to not fall in love with a jerk or how to not be a jerk, a parenting class and some relationship classes.”

Haas said state probation officials were so pleased with how the program is working they suggested the target area be expanded.

Last month, the City Commission approved an amendment to expand the referral base for the DRC to include offenders who have committed a felony crime in or live in Washington County whenever there are program vacancies not being used by individuals from the targeted area.

Haas hopes the this expansion will bring at least 100 new referrals to the Day Reporting Center during 2014.

Ashton Belcher manages the center, which officers participants weekly classes on parenting skills and dating/marriage relationships as well as a financial recovery class offered by Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union.

Right now, Belcher said, there are only 10 people in the program, but there is room for up to 30. Those spots won’t be too hard to fill since the program has been opened up to offenders throughout Washington County.

Haas said officials in Nashville as well as on the national level are watching the Johnson City program.

“The DRC is the first probation program of its kind in the state of Tennessee and (was) recently tweeted about by the National Criminal Justice Association, (which) stated, ‘Learn how TN is using JAG funds to improve public safety outcomes and reduce recidivism,’ along with a link to recent media coverage of the program.” Haas said.

“The successful impact now being achieved by the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project in Johnson City is largely due to resources that were not far away from the very areas with the greatest challenges. All it took was a vision, perseverance and getting stakeholders to the table to talk,” Haas said.

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