Judge Lisa Rice Finds Success With State's New Day-Reporting Center Program

February 15, 2018

Day Reporting Centers, in conjunction with Community Resource Centers, are taking a new approach to rehabilitating convicted offenders within Tennessee by offering established programs that aim to provide necessary skills and resources for participants. These extensive and thorough programs allow these otherwise would-be incarcerated individuals to successfully reenter society as functional, accountable citizens with the necessary skillsets to maintain a job, avoid substance abuse, and establish a responsible lifestyle. 

These centers serve as alternatives, not only for the offenders, but judges as well. Judge Lisa Rice has been serving as a criminal court judge since 2014, serving Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, and Washington Counties in East Tennessee. Both Judge Rice and Judge Stacy Street, who’s been on the bench since 2013, utilize the Johnson City Day Reporting Center as an alternative for non-violent offenders.

“The Day Reporting Center is a great resource for courts to utilize as intensive outpatient treatment in lieu of incarceration for those individuals convicted of non-violent crimes that were typically committed to fuel an addiction to drugs,” Judge Rice said. “The facility brings together employment specialists, treatment providers, probation and corrections personnel, as well as other community-minded individuals and groups, to provide support, drug therapy and treatment, employment counseling - how to get a job with a felony conviction - frequent drug testing and other services. They even do yoga and Tae Kwan Do. To quote Judge Stacy Street, ‘It's touchy, feely.’”

Judge Rice added, “It is strictly a voluntary program, the defendant, or their attorney, usually asks for an assessment to be completed.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, to be eligible for participation in the program, offenders must have received a felony conviction, have at least two years left on probation supervision, be under the supervision of TDOC’s Community Supervision, and have substance use concern.

The Public Safety Act of 2016 was the foundation for the creation of Day Reporting and Community Resource Centers by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). This act, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, is aimed at decreasing crime and recidivism by directly reducing the number of incarcerated criminals through strategic initiatives, while ensuring the public safety of Tennessee communities.

TDOC acquired The Johnson City Day Reporting Center, which had originally opened in 2013 and was run by the Johnson City Police Department through grant funding. As the grant funding expired, TDOC took ownership over the facility and utilized the center as a model that was eventually replicated in five other locations across the state. 

With a focus on rehabilitation and treatment, the centers administer a nine to twelve month long program that participants must complete within three phases. Each phase focuses on participants gaining knowledge in job skills, family reunification, substance use, and behavioral and social programs. With each phase the number of days required to meet per week decreases:  Phase I meets 4 days a week; Phase II, 3 days a week; Phase III, 2 days a week. This program style instills accountability, responsibility, and self-discipline in the participants.

“Last week the program graduated four participants. These individuals have spent 18-24 months in the program and were employed, maintaining employment for lengthy periods, having clean drug screens, paying on fines and costs, and getting their driving privileges reinstated,” Judge Rice said. “One of the female graduates had been able to comply with the permanency plan established by the Department of Children's Services and for the first time in years and had her children living under her roof. These goals were accomplished with the guidance of the Day Reporting Center personnel. Without these guiding hands, these participants would not have been able to achieve these successes by simply sitting in jail.”

These Day Reporting Centers also effectively cut costs to tax payers and the state. It is only $3-6 per day for offenders to be supervised in the community, compared to the costly $49-76 per day for incarcerated offenders to remain in prison.

Judge Rice has personally seen the progress made by some of her own defendants. “At the graduation ceremony, one of the participants from my docket (not one of the graduates) had achieved several milestones and gotten his drivers’ license back, passed his HISET (GED), maintained employment for several months and passed his drug screens. This was a defendant who formerly occupied several pages on my docket with numerous charges and probation violation warrants. The difference is someone believing in him and giving him the direction and tools to accomplish these goals to have a life beyond how he was going to get high.”

The Community Resource Centers, while functioning alongside the Day Reporting Centers, operate to provide services and resources to non-offenders with finding employment or dealing with family matters.

There are currently six newly opened Day Reporting Centers and Community Resource Centers across the state of Tennessee with two in each grand division: Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Jackson, and Memphis.

Judge Rice hopes to encourage other judges across Tennessee to utilize these Day Reporting Centers. “I would strongly encourage judges statewide to take advantage of the benefits this program has to offer.”

Judge Rice