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Murfreesboro Program Helps People With Felonies Find Jobs

Once you have a felony charge on your record, it can be difficult to secure a job, but the Murfreesboro Day Reporting and Community Resource Center is looking to tear down those barriers.

The center has been around for only 18 months, but it’s making a life-changing impact, director Richard Boyd said. The center works with people convicted of a felony who are considered moderate or high risk, and focuses on people who need treatment for substance abuse.

This is unusual, because many programs aimed to rehabilitate formerly incarcerated people deal with only misdemeanor charges and shy away from felonies. Workers with the Murfreesboro- based Tennessee Department of Correction day center are removing hurdles that keep offenders from finding employment.

“It is a lifesaving program, because (of) the number of opioid overdoses in Murfreesboro that are fatal,” Boyd said. “Some of our participants know who these folks are, and it’s had an impact on them. They don’t want to end up that way, too.”

‘(My life) has changed 100% for the better’

Chastity Bowling knows the struggle of having a felony conviction while trying to find a job. She was addicted to methamphetamine and arrested for drug use in March 2018 and started treatment with the reporting center in July. Now, a year later, she’s no longer addicted to meth and has had a job at Bargain Hunt for almost a year.

“(My life) has changed 100% for the better,” Bowling said. “I’m sober. I’ve not been in jail. I’ve not been in trouble.”

The journey to sobriety hasn’t been easy, though. There was a time Bowling slipped, but Boyd and other employees advocated for her before a judge.

“If you’re going to advocate for yourself, we’re going to advocate for you,” Boyd said. “Relapse is a part of treatment.”

To date, four people have graduated from the program, and Bowling is about to be the fifth. The intensive program has provided her with coping skills, classes on co-dependency and ways to set boundaries, all things she credits to her success with sobriety.

Participants can rely on each other to work through addiction

“(We) see them come in with either meth addictions or opiate addictions, work through our program and then graduate on the other end,” Boyd said. “They can support each other positively, but then if we see a group member who is slipping, some of the other group members can call them out and say, ‘You know what? You don’t need to be doing that.’ ” Although personal accountability is paramount, participants can rely on each other and center employees to help them navigate issues. The center is warm and inviting. Posters plastered with motivating and uplifting quotes line every wall.

Participants can write their triumphs on a slip of colorful paper and post it in the hallway. Everything from “I passed my drug test” to “I got a job” is visible. Small wins and large achievements are all celebrated.

“We want to hold all of our participants accountable for their actions, but we want to make it a safe environment for them to share their traumas, to share their successes,” Boyd said.

Although the groups and workshops are divided by gender, sometimes the classes join together. This helps participants network and make valuable connections.

“These people here … these are my friends,” Bowling said. “This is my family. ... They’re what’s helped me through (addiction). “I try mentoring and talking to (people), and we give each other our phone numbers. When somebody feels like they’re going through a hard time, we call each other.”

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