Former inmate Alicia Brown develops empowerment program to help those in reentry succeed

Alicia Brown

Alicia Brown

Alicia Brown, a former Indiana inmate, is using our book Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed as part of an empowerment workshop she’s created to help those in prison succeed when released.

She developed her seminar series F.A.N.S — Fresh Attitudes for New Success – during time spent at Madison (Ind.) Correctional Facility in 2016, where she was incarcerated for prescription drug fraud. The idea came after her business technology instructor, Mary Shipman, gave her our book.

“I was going through a hard time in my incarceration, and she saw I needed a pick me up. She said, “I think you need this,” and gave the book to me on Friday. By Monday I had finished it.”

“I talked to some of the women in my dorm about it and saw such a need for this information. With mass incarceration, there are not enough people to help those who are incarcerated when it’s time for them to leave. They give out these very generic release plans, and you’re free to go. But you’re not really prepared for what’s going to happen. Prisons don’t have a really good setup for success.”

Brown gave her workshop to other inmates and made a great impression on her teacher. “She’s really found her passion. She goes and gives these presentations and empowers women. I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Shipman.

According to Brown, it was such a great experience that she decided she would eventually give her workshop after getting out of prison. But first she had to find a job.

She found a job in a week

Inspired by our book, she knew she had to do whatever it took to get a job.

“It only took one week. I used the skills from the book, and I went to the first job I could find that would hire me. I worked at the local Humane Society and scooped up poop for six months. I stayed that long to have the continuity that the book talks about,” she says.

And it was worth the effort. Brown now has a job working the front desk at Varsity Clubs of America, an all-suite hotel in South Bend, Ind. She says she got the job by the cold calling technique we recommend.

“I came well dressed, with a JIST Card and prepared to address my felony with my turnaround talk. I did a cold call, just walked in. I did know that they were hiring, though. I didn’t have an appointment. The hiring manager saw me filling out the application, talked to me and hired me right then and there on the spot,” Brown says.

Her F.A.N.S. program took a bit more time to find a home, but she’s now teaching the five-session seminar at the DuComb Center, the St. Joseph County (IN) community corrections program, where she was on a work release program last year. Her first class consists of 10 men and women.

How Brown developed F.A.N.S.

“I developed the program by dissecting what the needs are from what I was hearing from other offenders,” she says. “Low self-esteem is a huge problem in (preventing people from) getting into the job market. F.A.N.S.’ mission is to extend reentry not just for job skills but for life skills in general. It’s a source for empowerment and encouragement for the person who wants change but isn’t certain how to go about it.”

Each of the five two-hour workshop sessions is devoted to a different subject. The tools she uses include:

  • Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed
  • PowerPoint presentations created by Alicia Brown
  • TED talks
  • Social Media
  • Additional resources from local staffing agencies
  • Responsible Mothers Workbook
Our book changed her life

In a recent TV interview on ABC 57 News in South Bend, Brown told the reporter that our book changed her life.

“Why?” we asked.

“This book was able to provide tools for me that I needed and up-to-date information so I could get out and do what I wanted to do. This book changed my perception and told me I could be successful, but I was very nervous that I ever would be,” she said.

“The book gave me initiative and drive and confidence – and a whole new purpose for me to take this message to the next person who needs it.”

She’s convinced it works. “I taught it to 350 women while I was incarcerated in Madison, and I’ve heard from people on Facebook that it changed their lives too.”


$10-$20 can make a difference and provide funding to send job search books to prison and jail libraries and expand our tattoo removal outreach.

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