One year after neighbors in southeast Davidson County adamantly opposed Men of Valor bringing a transitional living compound for men recently released from prison, a compromise may be on the way.
Sometime after July 1, the state Department of Corrections will issue a request for proposal that would allow a competitive bid process for a transitional living facility to be housed on 25 acres of land in rural Cockrill Bend near the state prison.
Men of Valor, a faith-based organization helping men transition from prison to life in the real world, intends to respond to the RFP and attempt to move a facility to the property. Just over a year ago, Men of Valor purchased a 50-acre piece of land in Councilman Robert Duvall’s district in southeast Davidson County.
Neighbors opposed the facility, but Duvall promised to search for a solution. Working along with state Rep. Ben West, Duvall sought to facilitate Men of Valor moving to a piece of property in Cockrill Bend.
“I want to be clear the neighbors really wanted me to help Men of Valor, too,” Duvall said, referring to the fact his constituents voted 278-12 against Men of Valor moving its campus to Couchville Pike. “I never heard a single neighbor say anything bad about Men of Valor. Everybody said, ‘Do we want them in that particular place? No, because it’s the wrong place.’ But they don’t have any problem with their mission and what they’re getting done.”
There was a hitch along the way, however. A bill was filed in the state legislature by West to lease the property to Men of Valor. An opinion written by the state Attorney General said the Department of Corrections and the state could not lease the property directly to Men of Valor without a competitive RFP process.
“Under current law and policies of the state building commission, neither the department of correction nor the department of finance and administration has the authority to negotiate a lease with MOV without advertisement and review of proposals by all interested parties,” the AG opinion, dated April 16, reads. “In the event that it is not feasible to require public advertisement, the property cannot be leased for a consideration less than fair market value as determined by appraisal without state building commission approval.”
Department of Corrections Commissioner George Little said an increased emphasis on re-entry programs is likely going to be included in the upcoming budget anyway, so Men of Valor’s mission is in line with the department’s goals moving forward.
Men of Valor has an average recidivism rate for men in its program of 18 percent. The accepted recidivism rate for most felons (Men of Valor does not accept sex crime offenders) is between 60 and 70 percent.
Little said there was at least one other group that had expressed in interest in the state’s Cockrill Bend property and was hopeful the RFP would be answered by qualified rehabilitation programs. Little said the RFP qualifications would include criteria stating the land would be used for transitional living facility.
Men of Valor after-care manager Raul Lopez said two weeks go the group was interested in the state property and working towards a compromise. It is possible the Couchville Pike property will soon be back on the market.
Men of Valor already runs halfway houses in Davidson County but had sought a campus to house 60 men on the same site.
“I believe that when rational people work together, and no one is working against each other, then things will work out,” Duvall said.