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Isolated Incident

Second Chance program boasts strong record despite recent scandal.

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There won't be any more chances for former Memphis Animal Services employee/convicted felon Demetria Hogan.

The recent scandal at Memphis Animal Services has cast a shadow over Second Chance, the government-funded, private/public partnership between the City of Memphis and local businesses that facilitates felons' reentry into society through workforce training and job placement.

On July 13th, Second Chance participant Hogan was arrested and charged with animal cruelty after a pit bull named Kapone was inexplicably "misplaced" while under her care. A few days later, a dog under Hogan's care died from heat stroke while being shuttled back to the shelter.

Marty Regan, one of the directors of the Second Chance program board, said Hogan's arrest was an isolated incident, one that should not tarnish the successful record of the program.

"I think it's an unfortunate situation," Regan said. "It's tragic, and yet you've got a program that has a relatively wonderful and successful history. Most Memphians have never heard about it because it's been working quietly in the community."

Since the program's inception in 2000, 1,225 formerly incarcerated individuals have been placed into jobs. The recidivism rate among Second Chance graduates hovers around 5 percent, compared with the 60 percent average for felons in Shelby County who don't participate in the program.

"Hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, state, local, and private money go into the program," Regan said, "but you compare that against the economic burden of people reentering prison and reentering the life of crime. Compare that against the program's success rate and I think it's very unfortunate that you have one isolated incident that characterizes the program."

Second Chance participation is limited to people with only one felony charge. Participants must undergo a rigorous nine-step program, including a written application, background check, drug screening, interviews with a case manager, job training, and monitoring, as they attempt to quietly shed their pasts and reenter society. The entire process can take from 60 to 90 days, not including the job search and placement.

Once participants are placed in a job, in either the public or private sector, they are monitored for a year before they graduate from the program. This monitoring comes from a number of sources: on-the-job supervisors, random drug testing, case managers, and work development specialists from Second Chance.

So how was Hogan able to slip through the cracks?

"I think with any position and in any scenario when you talk about over [1,000] people touched by this program, you will have isolated incidents just like you have problems in any profession," Regan said. "But the more attention you bring to the volume of people being released from prison, the more you recognize that it is not something you can turn your back on. It is not something that by doing nothing you get better results."

In West Tennessee, over 7,000 individuals per year are released from prison, 85 percent of whom are felons. At any given point, there are over 9,000 individuals on supervised probation in Shelby County.

"Our mission is, if we don't create another way of life for them to assimilate into — their church, their family, their employment — then that will be a monumental burden on society," Regan said.

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