Former inmates that acquired skills while they were incarcerated are making use of that training and experience in the woods of New Mexico.
Lawrence Jaramillo and Joshua Melendrez became qualified as wildland firefighters and chain saw operators while serving time in Los Lunas prison. The Inmate Workers Camp program (IWC) taught them the basics of wildland firefighting.
After they spent three years in prison the two of them formed a private company, All Around Forestry LLC.
I talked with Mr. Jaramillo Friday just after the final inspection was completed on the largest project they have worked on since the company was issued a business license in November. On the 13-acre job the company’s six employees thinned dog hair thickets, removed some large trees, and otherwise reduced hazardous fuels around structures at the Ponderosa Christian Camp in the Jemez Mountains. He said they have submitted bids on other projects that they hope to hear from soon.
Mr. Melendrez told us, “The cool thing about it is that every single one of our employees with us are wildland fire certified as well,” he said. “We all have done the program. We all went through as ADs for New Mexico State Forestry [after we got out of prison] — went on fires and fought fires with each other for quite some time now. We all have the knowledge of what needs to be done, and to do it thoroughly as well.”
They want to realize what is implied in the company’s name, All Around Forestry LLC, and hope to provide additional services such as a 20-person crew and a fire engine.
Below is an excerpt from an article at KOAT:
For these men it’s about giving people like them a second chance.
“A lot of people are happy and proud to see, I guess, a success story,” Melendrez said. “We owe a lot of it to IWC but it’s also our own mindset to be better for ourselves.”
“They’ve been doing an amazing amount of work, they’ve gotten an amazing amount done,” Ponderosa Christian Camp board director Craig Mathews said. “We hope this is just a spring board for them, and that they’re very successful in the projects they get awarded in the future.”
Not only is it an opportunity to grow, but also a chance to go at life a different way this time.
“We did wrong in the past but that’s not us anymore, we’ve changed our lives completely,” Melendrez said.
Jaramillo said they are looking for other clients to do business with, as well as other former inmates who want to join the company.