Job Opportunities for Justice-Involved Individuals in Alabama’s Forestry Industry Discussed in Commission on Reentry Meeting

Leaders from State of Alabama agencies met Tuesday for the sixth Commission on Reentry meeting. The Commission welcomed Stephanie Fuller, Director of Promotions and Economic Development, and Greg Brewer, Director of Workforce Development from the Alabama Forestry Association’s Forest Workforce Training Institute, or ForestryWorks to speak on how justice-involved individuals can be productive and successful workers in the industry.

Incorporating justice-involved individuals into Alabama’s forestry industry can help offset an aging workforce and less interest in the field than is common historically. Workers can be trained for skilled, good-paying jobs with the goal of reducing recidivism.

“We’re forgetting this huge market of individuals who are eager and willing to learn and also willing to work… We want to recruit the justice-involved individuals.” Fuller said.

Bureau Director Cam Ward said, “I believe a key component to reducing recidivism in Alabama is partnering with the private sector to find gainful employment for those previously incarcerated. We have a historic opportunity to reduce recidivism and fill desperate need in the labor markets.”

More information on ForestryWorks can be found here.

Kyes Stevens, Director of the Auburn University’s Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, returned this month for a presentation on the academic effectiveness of justice-involved individuals in a variety of subjects, including art. Six organizations are working together to develop an expo, planned for early 2022, to display art from currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. Those organizations are the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, Alabama Department of Corrections, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Ingram State Technical College, and the Bureau.

Stevens also elaborated on the continuously expanding degree opportunities and open-enrollment classes available to incarcerated individuals.

“Or program really focuses on helping [incarcerated] people find a love of learning… Once you get curious about something, whole-person curious, it opens up an incredible way of living,” Stevens said.

Annie Owen with Recovery Organization of Support Specialists, certified through the Alabama Department of Mental Health as a Recovery Support Specialist, also presented her successful experience with the Bureau’s Sand Mountain Day Reporting Center Lite program.

Members of the Commission include Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, Ingram State Technical College President Annette Funderburk, Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Kimberly Boswell, Senator Will Barfoot, and Representative Connie Rowe, along with leaders from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, the Alabama Department of Labor, the Alabama Department of Human Resources, Medicaid, and the Governor’s Office. The primary goal of the Commission, adapted from Section 3 of Alabama Senate Bill 221, is identifying, implementing, and promoting evidence-based research, policies, strategies, and programming to support successful reentry and reintegration.

Presenters Stephanie Fuller and Greg Brewer of ForestryWorks