Sunday, March 18, 2018

Shoals area Sheriff catching heat for outreach ministry

When are idiots in the Shoals area going to educate themselves instead of constantly attacking anything successful?

Sheriff catching heat for outreach ministry

By Russ Corey Staff Writer 22 hrs ago

TUSCUMBIA — Chester McKinney said he's not ashamed of what he's doing with a new faith-based Outreach Re-entry Ministry designed to help criminal offenders return to society after being released from prison.

McKinney, the owner of McVantage Packaging, which many people know as McKinney Lumber Co. on U.S. 43, said he simply "wants a chance to fail."

"But what if we succeed?" he asked.

The program is designed to help inmates transition back into the community through a strict program that requires participants to give up their old life, embrace God, and learn an array of life skills.

Inmates can sign up for the program while they are still in prison, said Rev. Willie Simpson, the executive director of the program. Simpson said he himself is a former inmate who has been out of prison for 30 years.

"This isn't a job," he said. "This is a calling for me."

McKinney called the ministry a pilot program that, if successful, could be a model for similar programs in other areas.

"It's faith-based and I'm not apologizing for that," McKinney said.

He said participants are vetted before they can enter the program, and they must sign an agreement to abide by all rules. They must pay $220 per week to participate, and they live at the old Four Way Inn on U.S. 43, which is surrounded by McVantage Products.

At present, there are only two people in the program. They are both sex offenders, but McKinney said they were convicted of "non-contact" sex offenses, which are offenses where the defendant did not have actual contact with a victim.

Both are from outside the Shoals, which causes some concern for Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson.

The sheriff said the county does not need criminal offenders from outside the Shoals.

McKinney, however, said the newly released inmates need to be "taken out of their comfort zone," meaning, they need to put distance between themselves and those who could influence them and lead them back to alcohol abuse, drugs or crime, and possibly back to prison.

He said the program is not for local offenders.

Williamson said both sex offenders involved in McKinney's program have registered with the sheriff's office as they're required to do by law. Sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school, or a Department of Human Resources certified day care center.

In other words, they're complying with the law.

While he may not like their presence in Colbert County, Williamson said there isn't anything legally he can do about it.

However, Williamson said he researching what can be done about inmates from outside the area coming into Colbert County.

"I have a problem with them bringing sex offenders in here," he said. "We have our own sex offenders. I have a problem with bringing violent offenders in here."

The sheriff said there are 122 sex offenders living in Colbert County.

McKinney said he would not allow any "sexual predators" on his property. He said the motel is not owned by McVantage Products, but by a company that is affiliated with McVantage.

Williamson said he has received numerous phone calls about the situation. McKinney said he has also heard complaints, but he's not deterred by the criticism. He just wants to have an opportunity to see if the program can be successful.

According to the agenda for Tuesday's Colbert County Commission meeting, one person has asked to address the commission on the topic.

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