Resources for Former Offenders & Their Loved Ones

For those who have been affected by the criminal justice system, accessing the right resources at the right time can make the difference between a temporary burden and a lifelong condition.


In the helping field, we’ve gotten the knack of responding to crises — at least the most common ones (where funding is available). But there’s a difference between surviving a crisis and thriving in life. Surviving a crisis is like going from negative ten to zero on a scale. You’re given food can’t make a meal. You’re provided shelter but can’t make a home. You’re placed in a job but can’t build a career. We know how to get to zero. But to thrive, we have to get past zero.  And unfortunately not many organizations are very good at that.

It’s worth keeping this in mind as you search for community resources so that you don’t expect too much from the help that’s available. What you find may take the sting away — at least for the moment. But more than likely, it’s going to be up to you to do the additional work on your own to build a permanent solution.

As you look for community resources for yourself or for someone you care about, consider the following:

  1. Good resources can be hard to find.
    Even the 211 database is not comprehensive. Community resources are often attached to temporary funding which comes and goes. So keep looking and keep asking for leads until you find what you need.
  2. What’s for the general public is also for you.
    Just because you’re a former offender doesn’t mean you qualify only for services intended for former offenders. You are also part of the general public. And there are many services which are open to the general public and don’t discriminate on the basis of a criminal background. 
  3. Visualizing success isn’t as important as visualizing the barriers to success.
    A common mistake people make when setting goals, is that they don’t anticipate the things that might get in the way. Considering how you’ll overcome these things is an extremely effective way to keep going when the going gets tough. 
  4. Resourcefulness has a lot to do with making the most of what’s in hand.
    Take a look at the “One Red Paperclip” video in the sidebar. Not many people are wired to trade-up in this way. However, when you know what you’re after and you look for opportunities which move you in the direction of your goal — one tiny step at a time — it is absolutely possible to achieve goals that seem unrealistic at the start.
  5. Focusing too much on immediate needs can keep be a trap.
    When you’re hungry, it’s natural to think only of food. However, you don’t want to get caught in a situation where the help you’re seeking only puts food in your mouth. You should have in mind also making a way to feed yourself.
  6. Some answers are right under the proverbial nose.
    Help doesn’t have to be professional. Consider reaching out to your family, friends and associates who you admire — especially if they’ve been in similar circumstances.
  7. Watch out for guru leaders.
    Unfortunately, the helping field attracts all kinds of needy helpers. Therefore, you should be careful not to get caught up with people or programs with personal agendas. They may simply put their survival ahead of yours. “Paper and people,” as the saying goes. “And in that order!” This isn’t necessarily a reason to decline their services. However, it does help to know where you stand so that you wont overestimate what they will do. Where you need to be cautious is where organizations promote single solutions, personal philosophies, or guru leaders. They actually need you more than you need them. And you should be extremely cautious about taking their help.

Jails, Prisons, Inmates

Tennessee Prisons

Tennessee Prisoner Lookup

Federal Prisons

Federal Prisoner Lookup

Hamilton County Jail Inmate Information


Our popular directory of services for former offenders and their loved ones is being revised and will be posted here as soon as it is available.

In the meanwhile, we suggest that you reach out to 211 for help. Please click on the link below to access a searchable database of many of the community resources available in Tennessee. Our call 211 in your area to speak with a trained specialist who can help you find the services you’re looking for.