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Building Hope, new jobs portal launches to help those justice-involved

Building Hope, new jobs portal launches to help those justice-involved

Job seekers with a criminal history can still get hired in today’s market, but it requires honesty and an extra dose of patience. West AlabamaWorks! new online employment portal called Building Hope ( officially launched mid-March 2023. This collaboration with the Tuscaloosa County Commission and the ‘Just Trust’ is to provide hope, help, and opportunity to justice-involved individuals looking for employment.

Alabama has the 6th highest rate of incarceration in the country. As a result, more than 8.95% of Alabamians, over 300,000 people, have a felony conviction. The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is over 27%, nearly five times higher than unemployment during the Great Depression according to recidiviz.

“One challenge for individuals that have been involved with the justice system can be finding employment. This innovative program not only allows those individuals to find a variety of jobs, but it creates a one-stop shop for wrap-around services in our community” said Probate Judge Rob Robertson. “The Tuscaloosa County Commission continues to look for unique solutions to solve workforce barriers. This program will not only help, but will also reduce recidivism rates by giving those individuals every opportunity to be more successful and productive,” said Robertson.

The lack of employment opportunities impacts not only individuals with a criminal history but also their families and especially children. Employing formerly incarcerated people could help nearly 5,200 families in Alabama.

“As a retired school counselor, I’ve seen how incarceration can devastate families.  The purpose of our site is to not only provide hope to individuals who have been involved with the justice system, but we hope to positively impact their families as well,” said West AlabamaWorks! Education and Employment Project Manager, Tonya Mills.

“To serve our justice-involved community we took it upon ourselves to seek out funding through the ‘Just Trust’ and hire an individual to take on the responsibility to spearhead this portal to be used for our nine-county region,” said Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama COO and West AlabamaWorks! Executive Donny Jones. “We are fortunate to have funds from the grant [Just Trust] to leverage partnership to recruit applicants to good jobs and companies to advance justice and equity in our region and state,” said Jones.

Each company and employer on the website are willing to giving individuals a chance and options, with parameters, to reduce the recidivism rate.  Today, nearly 29% of those released from prison in Alabama end up returning within three years (2021 DOC report).

This portal will be a one-stop shop to careers and getting individuals connected to services that help them maintain employment. People returning to society have acute needs, not to mention the challenges of obtaining important documents upon release.

We named it [the portal] Building Hope so justice-involved individuals can have hope that there is a path forward, said West Alabama Works!, Education and Employment Project Manager, Tonya Mills. “There are a lot of barriers to success for justice-involved individuals and it can be frustrating.  We are hoping to eliminate those challenges by providing a site where they can find employment and a link to the community supports, they need to be successful.”

Building Hope currently has 86 positions posted with salaries ranging from $9 to $30 per hour.

Justice-involved individuals can access this new employment portal by visiting For companies who are willing to hire justice-involved individuals, we would love to have them partner with us and post their positions on our site.  For more information and to register visit or contact Tonya Mills at