Prison Unit Helps Inmates Prepare for Freedom
News Channel 3
By News Channel 3 Staff
Every morning, Amelia Stem wakes up, pulls her clothes from the closet and gets ready for work.
She’s on the road by 7:30 a.m. and works until around 5:30 p.m. Back at home, she does laundry and gets a bite to eat. She might chip away at an assignment for her Lipscomb University night class before heading to bed.
It’s a typical routine for many, except for one thing: Stem, 38, comes home to the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she is serving a second-degree murder sentence handed down in 1998, when she was 17.
Stem will be eligible for release next year, after more than two decades behind bars. As excited as she is, she acknowledges there is more than a little anxiety that comes with getting out.
When she was first locked up, she said, she “didn’t even know what a budget was.”
“I’ve been incarcerated for quite some time. Over two decades,” Stem said. “It was a very big concern for me of my ability to take care of myself.”
So she began preparing for her impending freedom by moving into a specialized unit in the prison annex where inmates begin to ease into life on the outside, learning how to manage a budget, hold down a job and pick “free-world clothes” for work.
It’s the same place Cyntoia Brown, 31, will call home before she is set for release in August. Brown, who received a life sentence for a murder she committed at 16, received clemency from former Gov. Bill Haslam in January.
Haslam said Brown had to go through “transition and re-entry programming” before she could be released. Stem said moving to the transition center would be important for Brown.