Shelby County postpones prison reentry program ribbon cutting after WREG story

Problem Solvers
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Terry Thomas is the exact student the Shelby County Office of Reentry is meant to serve; he’s passionate about rebuilding his life and giving back to his community.

“I been confined from 12 to 40 years old. I’m just getting out the system and I’m proud to say I have been doing good the last six years," he said. “I have to make a living for myself and I want to make a living for myself to better myself.”

He proudly showed off the certificates he’s earned both while in prison and since leaving, and he was hoping to get another. That’s why both he another convicted felon, Roy Patton, signed up for a course on small engine repairs through the Shelby County Office of Reentry.

They thought they’d receive a stipend of $15 an hour. But the payment never came.

“They gave us a date saying January 27, then January 31, then February 5. None of those days, nothing was put into my bank account," he said.

The WREG Problem Solvers caught up with Office of Reentry executive director Harold Collins about this on Friday. He said they can only pay the students every three months. But he also made a promise.

“We’re working with the grantors to see if we can get something to them as soon as possible,” Collins said.

"I felt like everything was behind me," Patton said after seeing the promise. "They said they was gonna pay us Friday and I was ready to go back to work."

That’s why Patton was shocked when he found out the office cancelled its grand opening scheduled for Tuesday. Nonetheless, he still showed up for class.

“They told me I was dismissed because I missed too many days. The days I missed I had to work, I had to make money to pay rent because they didn’t pay me like they said they would," he said.

County officials said both Patton and Thomas quit. That's not how they described it.

“I really wanna go back to class," Thomas said. "I enjoy class and I’m learning. I want to do better but how can I when he told me don’t come back?”

Officials also said they delayed the ribbon cutting because they have to allow new students time to adjust.

Patton and Thomas are frustrated but still want a chance to finish.

Commissioner Amber Mills said Mayor Lee Harris's office told her they postponed the ribbon cutting for the new program because they weren't ready yet.

Officials have not announced a re-scheduled date.

The Problem Solvers will follow this to find out if the students get their stipend and if they're re-admitted to the program.

Related:

Reentry program director defends delayed stipend payments, promises change

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