Community Issues

Former Inmates Start Forestry Business After Prison

They took a skill they learned behind bars and used it to turn their lives around. Now they want others who have served time to join them.


Lawrence Jaramillo and Joshua Melendrez are used to being on the front lines when there's trouble.

The two served prison time together at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. That's where they took part in a state-fun forestry program to learn about fire prevention and firefighting, little knowing that it would change their lives.

During their time in prison, Jaramillo, 40, and Melendrez, 34, talked about starting their own forestry business when they were out.

"All we thought was, 'Hey, let's start a business and see what we can do. If we fail, we fail. If we don't, awesome,'" Jaramillo told ABC News.

Josh Melendrez, left and Lawrence Jaramillo, 2nd from left.Lawrence Jaramillo/Facebook

Melendrez was released in July 2017 and Jaramillo joined him shortly after in January 2018. In November 2019, they secured their business license and started All Around Forestry, LLC in Albuquerque, NM.

They landed their first job in the beginning of 2020 and have recently started another gig at Ponderosa Christian Camp where they're removing trees that had started to hang over the camp's cabins. Here are the guys in action:

Here's another story about inmates getting forestry training while serving time: Learning to Care for Trees Gives Inmates A Second Chance.

Laura McCarthy, New Mexico's state forester who helps run the inmate forestry program, said that it was started over two decades ago to help prisoners develop new skills to help their transition back to society.

With the number of wildfires in the state steadily increasing each year, the need has grown for more firefighters to pitch in.

McCarthy says that while many inmates have participated in the program, this is the first time she's seen any of them go on to start their own business once they've been released.

Lawrence Jaramillo/Facebook

The company currently has six employees, but Melendrez and Jaramillo are hoping to expand. They're already encouraging other inmates to apply.

"There is life after prison, and that's what I would like for them to take from this," Jaramillo said.

"We're very proud of these men for not only developing the skill set," McCarthy said, "but the mindset that they both want to be running a business and want to be employing other former inmates."

We think it's an awesome idea. Kudos to Melendrez and Lawrence Jaramillo for taking the initiative and inspiring others to #StartSomethingGood!

How can you start something good?
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