Six individuals were awarded certificates of recognition in the program at 5:30 p.m. today at Monumental Baptist Church at 704 S. Parkway East.
They represent half of the dozen high-risk offenders on probation or parole who were selected last year for a face-to-face meeting with federal, state and local law enforcement officials as well as with an array of social service providers.
"If you remember, you all were a little grumpy a year ago when we first met,” Gen. Weirich told the men. “Tonight you should be proud of what you’ve done. . .and of what you haven’t done. Congratulations to all of you.”
The focused-deterrence program offers education, job training, housing and other services for those who want it, and enhanced prosecution and sentencing for those who choose to continue a criminal lifestyle.
The program recognizes that a relatively small number of offenders commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the communities where they live.
The felony offenders selected last year collectively had been arrested 260 times, victimized 111 people and had been convicted of 141 crimes, including aggravated assault, felony thefts, aggravated burglary and domestic assault. They also have been the victims of crime 25 times.
“You have conquered the myth that says ‘Once a criminal, always a criminal,’” said April Buckner, TDOC correctional administrator for West Tennessee. “We love when people say you can’t do something. You’ve shown what you can do if given the opportunity.”
The Operation Comeback program requires that the participants avoid any new arrests and that they take meaningful steps toward addressing their education, job skills, substance abuse treatment or other issues.
A second focused-deterrence group was called in last November.
The program’s law enforcement panel also includes Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings; Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr.; M.A. ‘Mo’ Myers, special agent in charge of the FBI in Memphis; James Catalano, DEA resident agent in charge; Marcus Watson, ATF special agent in charge; D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee; and Alisha James, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Each briefly addressed the candidates Monday night, congratulating them on their success so far and encouraging them to build on that success for the future.
“Last year I told you I would be happy to sign an indictment if you did not change your behavior,” said Dunavant. “Tonight I’m so glad that the only signature you get from me is on your certificate of recognition.”
Sheriff Bonner set aside a crutch and told the group: “I’m hobbling because I just had knee surgery a few days ago, but it was important for me to be here tonight. For you to complete this program starting from where you were a year ago is quite an accomplishment. I’m proud of every one of you.”
Social service providers include the Memphis & Shelby County Office of ReEntry (MSCOR), the Workforce Investment Network (WIN), HopeWorks, Memphis Housing and Community Development, Memphis Housing Authority, and Lifeline to Success.
Operation Comeback uses the focused-deterrence approach of support and accountability that has been used successfully in other cities and is part of the Operation: Safe Community-3 (OSC-3) five-year plan to reduce violent crime in Memphis and Shelby County. Gen. Weirich is the chair of OSC-3.