Arizona is joining more than two dozen other states to give convicted felons a foot in the door for employment.
Gov. Doug Ducey, who has pushed for programs for years to prevent recidivism, announced today he has put something else into the concept: Money for transportation.
Under a deal with Uber, the ride-sharing company will put up $5,000 to help people get to their job sites if public transit is not available, whether because of geography or simply the time of day. That is contingent on a dollar-for-dollar match from the state the governor’s office said will be provided out of existing funds within the Department of Corrections.
In an executive order today, Ducey also directed state personnel officials to “ban the box,” eliminating any questions on initial job applications about whether a person has a criminal record.
None of that keeps the question from coming up. But the concept, according to the governor, is to ensure that people are not eliminated from even being considered.
“This is to allow people that have paid their debt to society, who have served their time, to have some hope of a job or a career or an opportunity,” Ducey said.
The announcement about the application process comes as the state trotted out details for placing a new “re-entry center” for released inmates who have committed some violation of their release conditions and otherwise would wind up back in prison.
Under Arizona law, offenders are released after serving 85 percent of their sentence. But they remain under “community supervision” for the balance of their term.
Sometimes, a former inmate in that category fails a drug test or some other condition of release but has not committed any new crimes.
Before the re-entry center, the Department of Corrections could either ignore the violation or put the person back behind bars. Under the latter option, the person would lose a job and housing.
The centers, first proposed by Ducey in 2016, provide a place for the former inmate to spend a few weekends locked up while also getting drug counseling. But they are released during the week to keep their jobs.
An existing facility in North Phoenix — one that provoked opposition from neighbors who were not notified first — will be closed. Aides to the governor also said the central location is closer to employers.
And existing pre-release employment centers operated in several prisons will also be consolidated there.
This article doesn’t identify where the “new” re-entry center will be located, except to say it will be more centrally located, when they close down the present one due to community opposition. This is after the Department of Corrections and our state tax dollars have invested over $1 million to remodel the North Phoenix facility — formerly part of the Dept. of Juvenile Corrections — just a year ago. All of the so-called “best practice” programs that are taking place after an inmate is released from prison into the community, but begins to violate the terms of his supervision, should be provided prior to release from prison. Re-entry preparation, counseling, treatment, social services and all the factors that contribute to successful re-entry should take place while the prisoner is incarcerated; not after he is released, but begins to fail.
I am looking into starting a nonprofit organization that trains and employs convicted felons and would love to know who the “two dozen” other states are in the article. That means there are 24 other states looking into solutions for long term employment. This could mean seed monies for our organization to get off the ground.