HARDEMAN COUNTY, Tenn. — From 2010 to 2016, Tennessee’s recidivism rate went down.
That means fewer felony inmates were re-incarcerated within three years of their release. What isn't often seen is the work that goes behind keeping those numbers down.
We went to a Hardeman County prison where a teacher’s focus is all about second chances and success.
There are more ways than one to make change and one way is the “Maclin Way.”
“The Maclin way is a high expectation with a positive attitude,” said Whiteville Correctional Facility teacher Katherline Maclin.
That expectation and positive attitude is for everyone no matter who they are or their background.
Although retired from school, these days, Maclin’s classroom is in prison.
“The volunteer part started when I was at the power farm in Memphis. I volunteered there for over 10 years and because of the experience that I had been there teaching men's and women's, a parenting class, I said that when I was not working in education, I would want to work back in the prison,” said Maclin.
Since 2014, Maclin has been teaching career management success to inmates at the Whiteville Correctional Facility.
“My main focus at the beginning is to let the students know that when they come into my classroom, it's a positive environment,” said Maclin. “I see this as a mission, to help change the lives. Because once you are exposed to knowledge, knowledge can change your life knowledge is very passionate, powerful.”
It's so powerful that Maclin has taught roughly 400-500 inmates at Whiteville and only 10 returned to jail.
“I hated to see those that have returned, but I was thankful that the bulk of them are out and doing well,” said Maclin.
She's showing that second chances are not only possible but deserved.
“The first misconception is not looking at them as human beings. They have made a mistake. When they're in prison, they're paying their dues. So, they should have a second chance once they get out to be successful,” said Maclin.
It's a mindset planted with a simple action: caring.
“I think that's one of the positive motivating factor for them is to have a person that they know that cares, but also require work from them,” said Maclin. “My philosophy is do what's right because it's the right thing to do and to do it the Maclin way.”