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TDOC's Good Samaritan Network Partners With AmeriCorps Vista

Friday, November 21, 2008 | 03:00am

NASHVILLE - The effort to rehabilitate criminal offenders has just received a boost in Tennessee.  The Department of Correction has teamed with AmeriCorps Vista in the first of its kind program to help get much needed services to offenders upon their release from prison.

AmeriCorps Vista is a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty.  Three AmeriCorps coordinators have now been assigned to the TDOC to work with the department's Good Samaritan Network (GSN).  For the past three years, the GSN has formed partnerships with community and faith-based organizations to provide reentry services to recently released offenders in order to reduce recidivism and promote public safety in Tennessee.

"The GSN has taken a chance on the thief, the gang leader and the drug dealer.  We understand that restoring hope often begins in a dark place, but the end result offers a complete life transformation," said AmeriCorps' East Tennessee Coordinator Elizabeth Day.

Thousands of volunteers representing 16 organizations have now joined the network.  "People in Tennessee are saying we can no longer sit back and allow crime to increase and not do anything about it," said TDOC Volunteer Services Director Richard Dixon.

Pastor Ronnie Hepperly of Restoration International Outreach in Maryville said, "By partnering together with the TDOC, we are investing in individuals who might be ignored by society at large.  When their lives are changed for the better, then they will impact their entire families and communities for the better."

The Good Samaritan Network aims to help the more than 6,576 people who leave the TDOC each year.  Many of them leave without jobs, money, family support and some without a place to live.  The AmeriCorps Vista members are located in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville.

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