Inmate re-entry facility celebrates second anniversary

A partnership between the city of Columbiana and Community Education Centers has paid off for both entities, according to speakers at the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility’s second anniversary celebration.

At the therapeutic education facility, off Industrial Drive in Columbiana, ATEF employees provide intensive personal coaching to Alabama inmates who have been charged with non-violent crimes. After inmates complete the program, they can enter work release programs before possibly being paroled into society.

Since 2008, the facility has seen 1,056 graduates, and less than 5 percent of those inmates have been rearrested after they were paroled, said Vernon Barnett, chief deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

“The success rate of this facility is very high,” Barnett said. “People in the legislature, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and nearly every other state agency have come here to see men who have come through the facility and truly changed their lives.

“This place is not only making a better life for these men and their families, but they’re also not coming back to us,” Barnett added. “You are making a difference in our society here in Alabama.”

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe praised the facility, calling it a “win-win situation” for the city.

“Folks, there is just no downside to this program,” Lowe said. “It has given men a second chance, it’s given people’s lives back and it has returned fathers to their families.

“The people who were initially opposed to it have been shown this facility has had a positive impact on Columbiana,” Lowe added. “We are proud to have it here. The people who had concerns about it at first, you don’t hear from them anymore.”

ATEF Director Ike Hadley and William Palatucci, senior vice president for ATEF’s parent company, Community Education Centers, attributed the program’s success rate to the facility’s staff.

“I think the reason for those results is because of the staff we have here,” Hadley said. “This is the finest group of people I have ever been associated with.”

“You all should be very, very proud of what goes on here,” Palatucci said. “I’ll put this facility up against any facility in the country, ours or another company’s.”