Republican candidate for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee highlighted Tuesday what he thinks could be a model for prison reform. State capitol newsroom reporter Chris Bundgaard is following the campaigns of both Lee and Democrat opponent Karl Dean.
Almost every day during his campaign for Governor, Lee speaks about his role with a prison ministry called Men of Valor. Lee told an audience of ex-offenders, lawmakers, and volunteers of the 50% recidivism rate, those who return to prison after being released.
“What’s so important about what we are seeing here today is a model on how we can change that,” said Lee.
Lee’s words came at the dedication of a Nashville facility to help 60 ex-offenders re-adjust to society. He has long been on the board of the non-profit faith-based group called Men of Valor which built the facility.
“The recidivism rate is substantially lower than in the general population,” said Lee.
How do you do that on such a large scale?
“I think you take it one piece at a time,” he said. “We are not going to widespread change anything. I think we change our state one community at a time. One prison at a time.”
Faith based non-profits partnering with state government can raise issues of separating church and state, but here is how Lee sees it.
““The state can create an opportunity for non-profits to thrive and non-profits do what they do without incorporating that non-proft non-profits as part of the state. that is what i hope for,” said Lee.
Democrat opponent Karl Dean has focused on prison and justice reform as well. Dean was in McNairy County Tuesday looking at a program using resources from multiple libraries.