New Sullivan County Jail program prepares inmates for life after release

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A new program in the Sullivan County Jail is working to give offenders the tools they need once their released.

It’s a jail that’s overcrowded by hundreds of inmates.

David Stanley sets up in the multipurpose room of the jail for the Moral Reconation Therapy class or MRT twice a week.

Stanley is no stranger to the jail.

“I had actually been a resident of the Sullivan County Jail in 2002,” Stanley said.

He served 17 months for securities fraud – and now wants to give back – certified to teach this cognitive therapy program.

“If you’re in here with a uniform on, you put yourself here. MRT illuminates that. It doesn’t allow you any whining or escaping or excuses. It says, if you want your life to be better, you have to be better,” Stanley said.

Phase two of the program is teaching inmates various job skills. The search is on for a nearby space to expand.

Stanley approached Sheriff Jeff Cassidy after hearing how overcrowded the jail is.

“Right now we’re at a critical mass, we’ve hit excess of 1,000 inmates,” Sheriff Cassidy said.

That’s for a facility that only has 619 beds and is also understaffed.

“It’s a very violent facility. We’re getting a lot of assaults, inmate on inmate assaults, inmate on officer assaults,” Sheriff Cassidy said.

This program is another step in alleviating jail overcrowding, the sheriff said.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of programs, a lot of different ideas, we’re looking at pretrial release,” Sheriff Cassidy said.

MRT – the first of its kind program for the Tri-Cities largest jail.

“We’re just looking forward to what the future holds and seeing these inmates flourish outside of jail,” Sheriff Cassidy said.

It aims to create productive citizens once they’re on the outside of the concrete jail walls.

“It’s a mirror. It forces you to look inside and examine how you got here,” Stanley said.

So far – 12 inmates are in the class.

Sheriff Cassidy said they’re in talks for an expansion or renovation to the jail to add those critical additional beds.

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