Energy Industry Second Chance Pilot Program offers unique opportunity after prison while building workforce of tomorrow

Public-private effort in South Carolina provides training and support services to help remove barriers to successful reintegration.

Press conference for second chance program

FLORENCE, S.C. – A unique public-private workforce effort neared a milestone Tuesday as participants in the inaugural Energy Industry Second Chance Pilot Program – designed to reduce recidivism by removing barriers to success for former prisoners – wrapped up on-the-job training and prepared to re-enter the workforce full time.

The program is an initiative designed to use proven best practices in restorative case management to prepare and guide formerly incarcerated individuals along a path to successful reintegration while growing the energy industry’s workforce of tomorrow.

This unique initiative began as an in-prison, paid employment and re-entry program for four inmates who volunteered to be trained and offered full-time employment in utility vegetation management, a field critical to utilities like Duke Energy across the state.

The program was developed by Lewis Tree Service in partnership with the S.C. Department of Corrections and professional services firm DESA (through the organization’s nonprofit arm Joseph Outreach) and the REEMERGE program (funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency).

Lewis Tree Service began the training at Wateree River Correctional Institution two weeks prior to release. In early March, participants were released to continue training with entry-level jobs in Florence, S.C.

The Duke Energy Foundation supplied nearly $27,000 in grant funding to the initiative that provides the training and support services needed to ensure the participants’ success and help them adapt from prison to the workforce and be reintegrated into society. These services include transportation, meals, transitional housing and required work clothing, as well as classes on soft skills and financial literacy.

Once training is complete, participants will work for Lewis Tree Service at locations across the Carolinas. They will continue to receive certain services including an assigned case manager and assistance finding permanent housing as they rejoin their families and communities.

Video is available of participants training at Wateree River Correctional Institution. Video and photos from the March 22 press conference are also available.


  • “Our Second Chance pilot initiative is a prime example of how private-public collaborations can expand life and career options for those preparing for release from prison,” said Diane E. Sumpter, operator of the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency’s Formerly Incarcerated Program and president of DESA, Inc. “Our main objective has been to give them the tools needed to positively adjust to hurdles along their path toward reintegration. The foundation and individual donor support we received made it possible for REEMERGE and Joseph Outreach to extend their services while creating solutions for the unique resource and behavioral health challenges that each participant faced as a returning citizen.”
  • “What began as Lewis seeking solutions to an industry-wide labor shortage has turned into an innovative partnership that taps into a unique labor pool,” said Dennis Brown, President and COO, Lewis Tree Service. “We hired dedicated professionals with tremendous growth potential. We are extremely proud that they joined our strong and growing company of employee owners.”
  • “We are grateful to these business community partners who see the value of hiring formerly incarcerated people,” said Bryan Stirling, Director of the S.C. Department of Corrections. “Programs like this truly give people a second chance.”
  • “We are committed to keeping South Carolina’s economy and communities resilient and strong,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina president. “One of the ways we do that is to continually look for innovative ways to support and grow our state’s workforce. This unique program is a step in the right direction in addressing some of those needs and we hope it can be a model for other industries to explore.”

Lewis Tree Service
Lewis is a values-based, employee-owned firm with over 4,000 team members throughout the U.S. Founded in 1938, Lewis is celebrating over 80 years as leaders in the utility vegetation management industry. Lewis’ personnel support large investor-owned utilities, electric coops, and municipal electric utilities providing a wide range of vegetation management services and expertise including transmission and distribution utility line clearance, outage response and storm restoration services. Utilities count on Lewis to get the Job Done Right®.

Lewis media contact: Laura Ribas

Duke Energy Foundation
The Duke Energy Foundation provides philanthropic support to meet the needs of communities where Duke Energy customers live and work. The foundation contributes more than $30 million annually in charitable gifts, and is funded by Duke Energy shareholder dollars. More information about the foundation and its Powerful Communities program can be found at

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 7.9 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 51,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 27,500 people.

Duke Energy media contact: Ryan Mosier
24-hour: 800.559.3853

Link to press release on Duke Energy website.