By Erica Thomas, Managing Editor

The Commission on Reentry met for the fourth time in October. The Commission discussed strategic plans to assist offenders and to help them become productive citizens.

The plans include ways to expand reentry programs including parolee skills training, substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment.

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, Sen. Will Barfoot, and Rep. 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.

Associate Justice Sarah H. Stewart organized a presentation, provided by the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship, about the need for paid apprenticeships behind bars.

Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Deputy Director of Parolee Rehabilitation Rebecca Bensema proposed a shared resource website for all offenders entering the Alabama Department of Corrections system, with offenders having access to the platform during every step of the system.

“A shared intake system would provide offenders access to resources provided by each state agency represented in the Commission,” Bensema said. “The system would also allow for each entity to obtain important data regarding offender needs that can assist in the delivery and implementation of support services throughout the state.”

There was an informal vote to extend the Commission beyond the originally planned conclusion of early next year.

Commission Chair Cam Ward said, “I am excited at the prospect of continuing to work with this amazing group of people on much-needed Alabama rehabilitation opportunities.” 

The next Commission on Reentry meeting is planned for Nov. 9. The Commission plans to evaluate the cost of criminal justice programs based on available data and determine which of these programs are operated by agencies within the state.