Court Programs Change Lives For Nashvillians

Posted at 7:19 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-04 20:27:10-04

Three Davidson County court programs have worked to change lives by giving second chances to those who need it through rehabilitation programs, and they did it with the help of Country Music stars. 

For the second year, John Rich will be working with the Davidson County Drug Court Foundation to raise money to help pay for the program which offers criminal offenders who are drug or alcohol dependent a treatment option instead of jail time, as well as working with those who have survived prostitution and human trafficking. 

This year, Rich will be hosting a fundraising event at his Hillsboro-West End home along with Clint Black on October 25 called, "An Evening with Black and Rich," where the artists will perform for the crowd and help raise money for the foundation.

The Davidson County General Session Drug Court was founded by Judge Casey Moreland in 2003 with a goal to help people who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and dependency. 

"The court system shouldn't be a scary place," Moreland said, adding that while the program allows offenders to find an alternative to jail time, it isn't an easy route. "There's a big difference between wanting help and needing help. There's a lot of them that need it, and very few that want it." 

Since the programs inception, it has been expanded to include Grace Empowered, an prostitution intervention program operated by the Nashville-Davidson County Office of the District Attorney General, as well as Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. (Healing Enslaved and Repressed Trafficking Survivors) which provides treatment and counseling to human trafficking victims. 

“People think that it’s such a big undertaking to change somebody’s life, sometimes they just need information," Assistant District Attorney Tammy Meade, said of the program she founded. “We don’t give them a hand out, we give them a hand up and say, ‘You have value. You’re a good woman.’”

The Drug Court has found a lot of success in Davidson County, with 75% of drug court graduates remaining arrest-free for at least two years after they leave the program, and a 45% reduction in crime compared to other sentencing options. 

Every dollar invested in drug court programming also saves taxpayers more than $3 in taxpayer dollars by reducing repeat offenses and criminal justice system expenses. 

"It opened a door for all my dreams to come true," Sheila Simpkins McClain, a graduate of the Drug Court, said. 

McClain overcame the demons in her life to graduate from the Drug Court program in 2006, going on to get her bachelors degree, start a family, and getting a job helping others as the director of survivor services as End Slavery Tennessee, helping people just as Judge Moreland helped her. 

"He was able to see something in me that I wasn't able to see in myself," McClain explained. 

While the program has been around for more than 10 years, it got a boost last year when John Rich was invited to participate in a fundraiser for the foundation; A invitation he gladly accepted after learning how the program worked and who it helped. 

"I think there's nothing more American than giving somebody another chance," Rich said of the program. "Just because they're doing that right now doesn't mean that's what their destiny is. That's not their destiny, that's nobody's destiny." 

Rich hopes that in working with the foundation and holding fundraisers, people will realize how effective this program is in changing lives, and in turn, they will support the program. 

"With this redemption element of the court system being in place, the more funding it gets, the more effective it can be," Rich explained. 

Tickets for "An Evening with Black and Rich" are $500 each, with proceeds going to the Davidson County Drug Court Foundation.