Three Arizona state prisons to add employment centers for those about to be released

PHOENIX – During Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address in January, he said one of his key initiatives included adding employment centers in prisons because employing ex-prisoners goes a long way toward reducing the recidivism rate and creating safer communities.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security has partnered with the Arizona Department of Corrections to fulfill his initiative, and officials plan to launch an employment program inside three state prisons that will have employment specialists from ARIZONA@WORK connecting inmates with background-friendly employers.

After completing a successful pilot program in parole offices in Mesa and Tucson, the departments now plan to add employment centers inside the Tucson, Lewis and Perryville prisons. They do not know when they will begin serving inmates.

Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said when the program begins, they will serve nearly 200 inmates, both male and female, who pose a medium to high risk to recidivate.

At each center, ARIZONA@WORK specialists will provide the inmates assistance with resume building, interviewing, money management, how to dress professionally and how to explain convictions to an employer.

“Employment is a critical component to an offender’s successful reentry, reducing the likelihood they will recidivate,” said Karen Hellman, director for the Division of Inmate Programs and Reentry at the corrections department.

She added that a job gives an ex-prisoner a positive structure and purpose as well as the financial means to legally support themselves and their family.