Attorney General Eric Holder and National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske visited Chattanooga yesterday to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Release Center—a faith-based residential program for incarcerated women reentering into the community. The Release Center, operated by The Next Door—Chattanooga, offers services such as education, substance abuse counseling and recovery support, job preparedness training, life skills, and parenting classes. The Release Center partners with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to offer women a chance to prepare for reentry into the community while serving the final months of their sentences. The Center is the first program of its kind in Tennessee.
After the ceremony, Director Kerlikowske and Attorney General Holder met with residents and staff of the Release Center. Many of the women described The Next Door as the place where they learned how to change their lives in an atmosphere of respect and healing. Chenoa, a newcomer to the program, said, "My whole life I've been a number, an inmate number—you have the same one no matter where you go—but the very first day I got here, everyone knew my name."
Joining Director Kerlikowske and Attorney General Holder were Linda Leathers, CEO of The Next Door; TN Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney; TN Corrections Commissioner Derrick Schofield; and Chairman of the TN Board of Probation and Parole Charles Traughber.
Meredith DeFraites is the Special Advisor for Strategic Planning at the Office of National Drug Control Policy