Inmate re-entry program worries some Colbert County residents

Inmate re-entry program worries some Colbert County residents
(Source: WAFF)

COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Countless Colbert County residents are fired up over a faith-based transitional house bringing ex-felons to their neighborhood. Sex offenders have already moved in, and people want to know what can be done to stop more from coming.

By law, county officials can't do anything to stop the ministry. All they can do right now is inform residents about the registered sex offenders who are making Colbert County their new home.

Outreach Re-entry Ministry Inc. said they are trying to help people who want to help themselves after serving their time to get back into society.

"This is a cluster of them that I see coming to my town and it bothers me. I am here as a mother and an aggravated parent that this crap is coming to my town," said Christy Bowman.

It was standing room only for a heated discussion at Tuesday night's county commission meeting in courtroom three. For nearly two hours, city officials and concerned citizens spoke about ex-felons, including sex offenders, staying at the old Four Way Inn motel located near the intersection of Alternate 72 and U.S. 43,, which is now being changed into a halfway house.

"I would like to see a program. I believe in second chances, I do. I hope they make it somewhere but not in my neighborhood up the street from my house," Donna Hardy said.

Hardy lives behind the motel and is worried about her grandkids' safety. She, like many others, don't feel like they know enough about the program or were notified properly. Some expressed at the meeting that they first learned about this new facility on Facebook or through the Times Daily article.

Chester McKinney Jr., who is the chairman of McVantage Products, the lumberyard directly next to the property, had the idea of bringing Outreach Re-entry Ministry to Colbert County. He admits this is still a developing project he first proposed to Sheriff Frank Williamson in January.

Two registered sex offenders from other counties who were charged with child pornography were brought here for the program.

"We will offer them work, programming, and they will be supervised. It's not something that they can just stop by and check into. They have to be vetted, understood and approved to come into our program," McKinney said.

The motel can house more than 40 people.

He said they won't let any pedophiles or violent criminals into the program.

"We have no intent to bring in anymore, but I can't tell you that it would never happen because everyone is going to be looked at an individual basis," McKinney said.

Colbert County Probate Judge Daniel Rosser said Outreach Re-entry Ministry has not requested a business license from his office and they won't have to have one to operate since it is a faith-based program.

If there were to be a problem at the Outreach Re-entry Ministry, it falls under Tuscumbia police jurisdiction.

"Once they go on the registry with the sheriff's department, that's who registers the sex offenders, then we can go and do the notifications," said Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan.

Many people at the meeting believe it's a way for companies to get cheap labor.

Those who go through the program will pay $220 per week to participate and live at the old motel.

"We are not ashamed of what we are doing," McKinney said. "We see this as a win, win, win for a whole lot of people in a whole lot of ways. That's our intent and has always been our intent."

Logan said they'll be doing their own inspections like they normally do for sex offenders while also keeping a close eye on the motel and the activity that will be going on there. The sheriff is also encouraging people to reach out to their state representatives to help change the law for sex offenders.

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