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College exclusively serving incarcerated population pushes for more funding

J.F. Ingram State Technical College, an institution that exclusively serves Alabama’s incarcerated population, invited a number of state legislators and officials to tour the facility in Elmore County Tuesday in an effort to garner support for increased state funding.

Adjacent to the Staton Correctional Facility just north of Montgomery, the main ISTC campus saw a total enrollment of 241 during the 2021-2022 enrollment period, and offers 20 different technical training programs covering fields such as welding and carpentry. The college currently serves 17 state prisons, operates in 20 counties, and is funded by the state legislature as part of the Alabama Community College System. In a 12-month period ending in July 2022, 247 ISTC graduates were placed in jobs.

“It’s one like no other in the United States where we serve solely the incarcerated population through our post-secondary system,” said ISTC President Annette Funderburk to the more than a dozen state leaders and officials.

ISTC President Annette Funderburk speaks with media and state leaders about the college’s programs.

During the 2022 fiscal year, ISTC funding totaled almost $26 million through a combination of grants and legislative appropriation. 

Among material shared with the invited state leaders was a written agenda for the upcoming fiscal year, which advocated for increased funding to facilitate higher employee wages and expanded services. The written agenda also advocated for opposing any legislative efforts to modify the organizational structure of the ACCS, as well as any creation of “burdensome operational and reporting requirements” that could “negatively impact” the ability to govern the ACCS.

State Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, whose district includes part of Elmore County, praised the work of ISTC in equipping inmates with the skills needed for Alabama’s workforce.

“The work that’s done up here is important not only for Elmore County, but statewide,” Barfoot said. “As you know, the prison issue melds very well with the workforce issue, and this is something that (Funderburk’s) done a great job with and we need to continue to support the efforts here. At some point in time, the incarcerated population will be getting out, and we need to make sure that they’re situated to be able to contribute to society.”

ISTC Dean of Instruction William Young leads a tour of state leaders across the college campus.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, who sits on the college’s advisory board alongside Barfoot, said what he most enjoyed about working with the college was hearing testimonials of inmates who had successfully completed programs. Chambliss also praised the college’s work in dramatically improving the recidivism rates of inmates who have participated in the school’s programs.

State Rep. Troy Stubbs, R-Wetumpka, indicated during the tour he would likely be in full support of increasing or at the least maintaining ISTC funding.

“We recognize the tremendous impact that not only Ingram State, but all of the state prisons have on our local community,” Stubbs said. “As a county, we have supported the corrections system at Ingram State, and we’ve looked for opportunities to provide the people who are incarcerated with better future opportunities.”

While ISTC was first launched in 1965, it wasn’t until late 2022 that the entirety of Alabama’s correctional education programs were consolidated under it. The college also partnered with the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles in 2021 to provide educational services to those supervised by the bureau.

John Hamm, the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, also attended the tour on Tuesday, and noted the transformative effects of ISTC programs.

“Inmates getting out, they could go work at fast food restaurants or some other labor-intensive industry, but now through the programs (of ISTC), we have employers coming to us saying we want these people now,” Hamm said. “So we certainly appreciate that and these legislators that know the value we have here at Ingram State.”

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