New Collaborative Efforts will Launch a Prisoner Re-Entry Ready to Work Program

Collaboration is a fundamental factor in building success. One of the ways in which West Alabama Works is achieving progress is by merging the strengths of the faith-based community, post-secondary education, and workforce development partners to create a Prisoner Re-Entry Ready to Work Initiative. Looking at the area’s needs, available resources, and how those combine to make long term, systemic change is a fundamental aspect of what occurs through West Alabama Works’ mission.

The Church of the Highlands has been working with correctional facilities for 5 years, offering assistance to thousands of inmates. More than 2,000 inmates attend church each Sunday and participate in small groups in the 14 correctional facilities The Church of the Highlands serves. The Church of the Highlands partners with LifeLink, a non-profit service provider to the Alabama Department Of Corrections, to deliver content to ex-offenders and offer instruction in areas such as soft skills. The University Of Alabama School Of Commerce also provides adult education to inmates. 

With this success in mind, West Alabama Works partnered with Church of the Highlands to address the needs of ex-offenders who will re-enter the local community. The goal of partnership is to utilize a structure to teach soft skills, which are essential in obtaining and retaining employment. If ex-offenders re-enter their community job ready, they are less likely to re-offend. Reducing recidivism will lessen the amount of state and local resources required in the West Alabama region. Adding the acclaimed Ready to Work program taught at Shelton State Community College — which was created by AIDT and modified by industry — is another significant part of the partnership. Noting that evidence-based workforce education and training is essential to reducing recidivism and helping people become productive citizens, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said, “We are pleased to have Shelton State Community College as a partner in preparing people for a successful transition back into society once they are released from incarceration.”  

Additionally, John Covington, President and CEO of Chesapeake Consulting is “very excited about bringing Ready to Work into the prison system with volunteers out of the faith community delivering the material.  The potential for a huge win for numerous segments of our community are all there. Taking someone who is currently unemployable and converting them to someone who is employable is a win for our local companies who need reliable workers and for the individual who is a step closer to being a productive member of society.  It is great being associated with this effort.”

Ready to Work classes will start in January 2018 at the Bibb County Correctional facility. Randy Walker, Highlands Correctional Ministries Pastor states, “We are always hopeful that any efforts to help incarcerated citizens successfully navigate their next steps will result in a better, more peaceful society for us all. We as a local church, are fully committed to serve and to support all efforts to make our state’s correctional system the best.” 

Local employers, such as CEMEX and Ready Mix USA are already excited to hire graduates of the Prisoner Re-Entry Ready to Work Program. Ready Mix USA is committed to hiring people that need a second chance. According to Marc Bryant Tyson, President of Ready Mix USA, “Our people drive for our success. We develop their potential in a meaningful way while keeping them healthy, safe and engaged. We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the LifeLink CORE Program, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, The University of Alabama School of Commerce, Shelton State Community College, Bibb County Correctional Facility and Church of the Highlands."

Innovation that helps industries and benefits the community is welcomed and encouraged. The team at Church of the Highlands would like to open up the opportunity to any faith based organization in the West Alabama region interested in partnering in this extremely valuable endeavor. Please contact West Alabama Works at 205-391-0331 for more information.