A Pensacola landscaping company is helping felons successfully rejoin society – and reduce the chance of their returning to prison – by providing them with job training and skills. Everything Outdoors, a lawn maintenance and landscaping business, was started by Pathways for Change residential treatment program, which provides nonviolent, nonsexual offenders with counseling, case management and educational training.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, the success rate of the area’s regular prison population that transitions into work-release programs is about 32 percent, with an annual cost of $26,000 per inmate. The Pathways participants cost $15,000 per year and successfully stay out of prison at a rate of 70 percent.
Connie Bookman, Pathways’ founder and CEO, says the program’s success can be attributed to the fact that Pathways focuses on the most difficult barrier for ex-offenders to overcome: their inability to get a job. “The guys that fail are the guys who can’t keep a job out there,” Bookman told the Pensacola News Journal. “If you can’t get a job or live in subsidized housing, or if you don’t have a support system that is healthy, you don’t have a chance.”
Through their work with Everything Outdoors, Pathways participants gain work experience they can add to their resumes, learn about back-office accounting and office administration, and develop soft skills necessary for successful employment. At the same time, they are also provide good service, according to Caron Sjoberg, who recently hired the landscaping company to re-sod her lawn.
“It has just spread into a much larger project because they are doing such a good job,” she told the Pensacola newspaper. “I feel like they are going to be with me for a while … I’m going to recommend them to anyone I know.”
Adam Harrell, who graduated from the Pathways program about a year and a half ago, was hired as foreman of Everything Outdoors in February. “The guys will work harder for me than anyone I’ve had over the years,” he said. “They know they are working for their future.”