Making correctional education work for Alabama

Annette Funderburk, president
J.F. Ingram State Technical College

The job market in Alabama is growing, and the unemployment rate has reached low levels not seen in many years. Businesses across the state are working harder than ever to find and hire qualified workers. According to Governor Ivey’s Success Plus initiative, our state will need an extra 500,000 credentialed, highly-skilled or degreed individuals by 2025.

This provides an excellent opportunity for placement of previously incarcerated individuals who are graduating from J.F. Ingram State Technical College with technical skills and proficiency in ready-to-work disciplines.

At Ingram, we want to send the message that opportunities to reduce recidivism in our state’s prison system have been enhanced by economic conditions statewide and by our continued efforts to provide excellent training and work readiness skills to the incarcerated. Recently, Ingram hired a job placement coordinator. We are having increased success placing Ingram graduates in high wage, high demand positions throughout Alabama. These jobs provide income, dignity and hope for those in our communities in need of a chance to succeed and become productive citizens.

To facilitate reentry into society, the Ingram State Foundation often provides needed tools and safety equipment to employed graduates as they begin their new jobs.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, 94 % of individuals incarcerated, will be released into the community. Established by the Alabama legislature in 1965, Ingram State Technical College is the only community college in the country serving incarcerated students exclusively.

A fully-accredited member of the Alabama Community College System, which is part of the Alabama Workforce Council, Ingram State partners with the Alabama Department of Corrections and provides career technical training in 17 programs ranging from diesel mechanics to industrial maintenance, logistics to welding, cosmetology and barbering at correctional facilities across central Alabama, including Tutwiler Prison for Women.

These are credit-bearing programs with stackable credentials of short and long-term certifications. College enrollment is available to inmates that are within 10 years of their end-of-sentence or parole date. Our goal is to prepare our graduates to enter the workforce equipped to meet the needs of employers, provide a pathway of employment for the formerly incarcerated and reduce the number of inmates that return to Alabama’s prisons.

Since many of our students did not graduate from high school, students can also enroll in adult education and pursue their high school diploma or GED. A new endeavor in adult education is the Career Pathways program which encourages students earn their GED while they are dually enrolling in a career tech program.

Because ISTC graduates face significant barriers to employment, ISTC has placed particular emphasis on the acquisition of industry-recognized certifications and credentials. Programs are taught utilizing the nationally recognized curriculums from the National Center for Construction Education and Research and Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, and qualified students complete an OSHA 10-hour safety class.

Through an agreement with the Alabama Plumbers and Gas Fitters Examining Board, ISTC plumbing students can earn their journeyman certification as part of their program of study. Students enrolled in the HVAC program receive EPA certifications, while barbering and cosmetology students complete the hours of education needed to sit for state licensure examinations.

In addition to helping close the employment gap, educating Alabama’s incarcerated population has other benefits. A 2018 study by the RAND Corporation shows that individuals who participate in quality education programs are 28 percent less likely to return to prison than those who serve their sentence and are released. Earlier RAND research showed that for every $1 investment in prison education programs there is a $4 to $5 reduction in incarceration costs during the first three years post-release of a prisoner.

Although our buildings, instructional equipment, and techniques would be familiar on any community college campus, our student body is unique — a mission of developing responsible citizens which reduces recidivism and provides employable workers to businesses. Student success at ISTC is a victory not only for each student and their families – but for all Alabamians.

1 hour ago

Rep. Palmer: Why is it Joe Biden can send his wife out but he can’t go out?

Earlier this month, Jill Biden, wife of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, began taking a more public role in her husband’s bid for the White House, participating in media interviews and campaign events.

However, Joe Biden has not been out and about as much as the former second lady, which has raised questions about the former vice president and his campaign.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) asked that question and offered a theory as to why that is the case.

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“Here’s Jill Biden, living in the same house with Joe Biden, who is out doing interviews, who is out in meetings,” Palmer said. “She’s in her 60s. She’s not as old as Joe but I believe she is in her 60s, in that age group that is considered at risk. She is able to go out and meet with people. She is able to do interviews face to face but Joe can’t. So people ought to be asking themselves a question: Why is it he can send his wife out but he can’t go out?”

“There are a number of people who have a theory on that, not the least of which is he is a gaffe machine,” he added.

Palmer reminded listeners how Joe Biden’s struggles with gaffes go back decades.

“My first contact with Joe Biden was the very first work that I did in D.C. when I ran the think tank,” Palmer added. “That was Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing. And you may recall he had gone through controversy then … It is well known that he is surrounded in controversy and that he is a gaffe machine.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

12 hours ago

Alabama political leaders react to Kamala Harris as Biden’s choice for VP

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday selected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his running mate. Political leaders from both sides of the aisle in Alabama reacted to the news.

Harris served two terms as the attorney general of California before being elected to the Senate in 2016.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), the Yellowhammer State’s most prominent Democrat and a longtime Biden ally, wrote “I know the power and energy of African-American women & the difference their hard work made in my race. Now we’ll make history by electing our first African-American woman VP & I’m so proud that person will be my friend and colleague ⁦Kamala Harris.”

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Jerry Carl, a Mobile County commissioner and the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District, was the first major member of the Alabama GOP to react.

“Did Sleepy Joe forget that only months ago Kamala Harris attacked him for his racist policies? Now he is handing over the reins of the Presidency to her and the radical left,” Carl’s campaign account tweeted shortly after the news broke.

“I am ELATED that my friend, colleague, & Sorority Sister Kamala Harris was chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate! Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are ready to take on the big fights and she’s already shown the courage and success to win big fights,” U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (AL-07) posted to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, the Republican nominee to take on Jones in November, commented on the news via Twitter.

“It’s no surprise that Joe Biden has selected a Socialist Democrat like Kamala Harris as his VP pick. Harris is as far left as it gets, and my opponent, Doug Jones, stands side-by-side with her on almost every critical issue,” Tuberville’s campaign posted. “They have voted time and again for late-term abortion, gun-grabbing laws, open borders legislation, and other far-left agenda items. We must not let Socialists like Doug Jones or Kamala Harris take over our country!”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement, saying, “Joe Biden’s VP pick drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left.”

Lathan listed a number of liberal measures Harris has supported before adding, “We look forward to the clear contrast in policies in the Vice Presidential debate with Mike Pence and Senator Harris. It will be a true mirror of the obtuse plans the Democrats want for our nation.”

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, a Democrat, received Harris’ endorsement while he was campaigning for the office he now holds. He tweeted on Tuesday, “I like what I just heard” shortly after the news of Harris being chosen spread online.

“We are proud [Kamala Harris] has been selected to be Joe Biden’s VP. We look forward to helping her make history & make a difference over the next four years,” Reed added.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers’ (AL-03) campaign account wrote, “Joe Biden’s radical lurch to the left just became even more extreme,” in response to the Harris news.

President Donald Trump was asked about Harris during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“She’s a big tax raiser. She has a lot of things to explain,” he said in part.

Biden and Harris will take on President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the general election this November.

Pence and Harris will debate at 8:00 p.m. CT on October 7.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

14 hours ago

Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) sent a letter on Tuesday to Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, advocating for the SEC to allow its member institutions to proceed with the 2020 college football season this fall.

The letter came the day that the Big 10 and Pac-12 decided to cancel their fall seasons. Of the Power 5 conferences, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 have yet to announce if they will play football this year.

To try saving the season, a player-led #WeWantToPlay movement has popped up in the past few days, quickly gaining momentum nationally.

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and other prominent leaders in the world of college football have advised that most players want to play, and that players will very likely be safer following enhanced safety protocols developed by their teams rather than being back at home or left to their own devices on campuses all fall.

For example, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) head coach Bill Clark on Monday tweeted that his team had tested all 176 people in the school’s football building for COVID-19, with all tests returning negative.

“In addition to the [SEC]’s Medical Advisory Group providing a medical clearance for gameplay this fall, I have faith in the various health and safety guidelines being adopted by the Conference’s member institutions, who have themselves relied on the vast expertise of the medical professionals on their campuses and within their respective university systems,” Reed wrote to Sankey.

He added that on top of “the heightened health and safety protocols in intercollegiate athletics, each member institution has created health and safety guidelines campus-wide.”

“I have a tremendous amount of trust in the decision making of institutions such as the University of Alabama and Auburn University and wholeheartedly believe that every decision made by their respective administrations will prioritize the health and welfare of their students, faculty, and staff over all other considerations,” Reed continued.

“Member institutions and student-athletes have worked tirelessly to get back on the field this fall,” the senator said. “Depriving opportunities for student-athletes to succeed on the field will long lasting and potentially devastating consequences for their futures, with many student-athletes aspiring to compete professionally.”

Reed concluded by asking the SEC to “hear the calling of their member institutions and student-athletes and commit to competition this fall.”

You can read the full letter here.

Shortly after Reed sent his letter, the SEC via Twitter released a statement from Sankey.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Lawsuit challenging statewide mask order dismissed by judge

A Montgomery County Circuit judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to challenge the legality of Alabama’s statewide mask mandate.

The suit was brought by three Jackson County residents who thought the mask order, first ordered by Governor Kay Ivey in mid-July, was outside the bounds of what the government could put in place.

Seth Ashmore, the attorney handling the lawsuit, said on Tuesday his clients plan to appeal the ruling.

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Judge Greg Griffin handled the case at the circuit court level and made the decision to dismiss the suit shortly after a hearing conducted on Tuesday afternoon.

Both Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, in their official capacities, were named as defendants in the suit.

The persons suing Ivey and Harris argued the mask mandate was “illegally adopted” and a “deprivation of liberty.”

Lawyers from the Alabama Attorney General’s office argued in their motion to dismiss the suit that the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955 gave the Governor “ample authority” to require the wearing of masks by individuals when they are in public.

Both the lawsuit and motion to dismiss have been made available to the public by Mike Cason, a reporter for Alabama Media Group.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

16 hours ago

Alabama HBCU students chosen for Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED internship program

Birmingham-based Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED has held the 2020 edition of its annual “Pay It Forward” program, which aims to provide black college students with opportunities to celebrate achievement and further their success.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) students from 16 schools throughout Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED’s six-state footprint submitted applications earlier this year.

Now in its fifth year, the program was promoted actively across participating HBCU campuses. Coca-Cola reviewed the applications for the program, selecting 25 students total based on their impressive applications. This included seven students from Alabama HBCUs:

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Micah Hardge and Marion Brock IV, Alabama State University
Michael Howard, Miles College
Olivia Sarley, Stillman College
Jasimen Collins and Ayala Seaborn, Talladega College
Nia Reid, Tuskegee University

Normally, this program is a week-long, in-person experience; however, this year due to COVID 19, selected students participated virtually. These students engaged with Coca-Cola Company teams to learn more about the organization and how to conduct business most effectively during a two-day, informative development session held last week.

“Although we will not be able to meet these students in person this year, we are excited to get to know this remarkable group of ‘Pay It Forward’ interns,” stated John Sherman, president and CEO Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED. “Our intent through the two-day program is to encourage these young adults and help enable them to further develop career goals as they plan for the next phase in life.”

During this internship, students reportedly gained experience in a wide range of roles at Coca-Cola, including sales, production, marketing, pricing, event planning, packaging, philanthropy and community relations. The program exposes participants to real-world work situations, including business practices and protocols, how to network and other important skills that will prepare them for the job market.

Over 100 students from Coca-Cola’s partner HBCUs have participated in the Pay it Forward internship to date.

Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., founded in 1902 and headquartered in the Magic City, is the second-largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the third-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States. Now with its fifth generation of family working in the business, the Yellowhammer State company has approximately 10,000 associates located in more than 60 facilities across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn