Former inmates start forestry company after learning skills in prison

(KOAT) — A second chance for those who want to pick up a saw and put on some boots.

“It’s not just about us, we want to open the doors for other ex-inmates that are coming out,” said Lawrence Jaramillo.

Jaramillo and Joshua Melendrez are former inmates of the Los Lunas prison. When they got out of prison two years ago, they wanted to change their lives and do something with the skills they learned while being locked up. So they started their own company, All Around Forestry LLC.

“We know our job. We did it for years. Two years with IWC,” said Melendrez. “We take pride in what we do.”

IWC is the inmate workers’ camp program. When they were behind bars, they all learned the ins and outs of forestry work through the program. They recruited four other men who they met inside the prison to be a part of the company with them.

“Not a lot of people get a that second chance, or they look down on you cause you’ve been to prison,” said Sylvester Paquin, another former inmate.

The men realized there was a demand for forestry work in the state, so they thought, why not be their own bosses and eliminate the middle man?

“They talked about when they were inside the facility and now they’re following their dreams, and doing something with these skills that they learned with us,” said Michael Gonzales, with the New Mexico State Forestry.

Gonzales is the IWC supervisor. He managed all of the men involved in the company while they were in prison.

“They would tell us people are coming in from out of state to do exactly what you guys are doing,” Jaramillo said.

For these men it’s about giving people like them a second chance.

“A lot of people are happy and proud to see, I guess, a success story,” Melendrez said. “We owe a lot of it to IWC but it’s also our own mindset to be better for ourselves.”

Within just months of getting their business license, they just got their first contract with Ponderosa Christian Camp in the Jemez Mountains.

“They’ve been doing an amazing amount of work, they’ve gotten an amazing amount done,” Ponderosa Christian Camp board director Craig Mathews said. “We hope this is just a spring board for them, and that they’re very successful in the projects they get awarded in the future.”

Not only is it an opportunity to grow, but also a chance to go at life a different way this time.

“We did wrong in the past but that’s not us anymore, we’ve changed our lives completely,” Melendrez said.

Jaramillo said they are looking for other clients to do business with, as well as other former inmates who want to join the company.

“Give us a chance, and you’ll be pleased with what you see,” Jaramillo said.

The company is also looking for donations of tools, gear, an accountant and more. To help, you can email


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