How ACI Has Benefitted Me: Arizona Correctional Industries has been very beneficial to me during my incarceration in several ways. First, it has allowed me to work with others in a real world work environment that has helped improve social and communication skills; while solving practical issues. Second, it has taught me to schedule schoolwork and personal interests around my work, which will assist me in future organizational skills upon my release. Third, it has allowed me to develop a financial freedom that is independent from family and friends.
The use of inmate work crews is recorded as far back as 1908 when inmate labor built the Florence Prison.
Arizona Correctional Industries was created by the Arizona Legislature in 1969, operating under the acronym “ARCOR” (Arizona Correctional) until 1987, and received appropriated funds to support its operations. In 1987, ARCOR was renamed Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). Four years later, in 1991, the funding was discontinued and ACI’s business enterprise became a financially self-sufficient division of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC); operating entirely without taxpayer funding.
There are several critical areas that contribute to our growth and profitability: safety, social responsibility, inmate training, quality products and services, and strong financial performance, as well as the positive impact on the State of Arizona’s economy.
ACI continues to seek opportunities through Owned & Operated businesses and Private Sector Partnerships to provide labor and services to fill a void not being met by free-world labor or as an alternative to outsourcing labor to foreign countries.
The True Measure of Success
We use statistics and spreadsheets to track every aspect of our lives, thinking that our worth can be measured in dollars or where we rank on some imaginary ladder of success. But real success is not measured by data points, it is determined by how we feel inside when we ask ourselves questions like:
- “Am I good enough?”
- “Do I treat my friends and neighbors with respect and dignity?”
- “Do my actions contribute to the general good?”
- “How will I be remembered after I’m gone?”
We don’t need to be incarcerated to feel badly when we answer these questions. Most of us go through our lives never asking them at all. But we should; often. Every time we make an important decision, we should ask how it will impact our family, our friends, our neighbors, the planet, our own future. If we did there would be fewer bad decisions made.
But life goes by so fast and we are constantly being pulled in different directions. Sometimes we resist the pull long enough to make an informed choice. Sometimes we just follow the path of least resistance, without really considering the possible consequences. For the inmates we work with, the consequences for a poor decision they made were significant. The important thing is to ask, “If I had taken the time to think about it before I took that action that landed me here, would I have decided differently?” Because chances are, the answer is “Yes.” The very act of asking the question, brings to mind how they could have acted differently and the results been different. They can begin to write a new story for themselves.
That is why these letters are so important. They are the voices of the inmates who work with ACI. Their words, tell the true story of what life is all about. By making the decision to use their prison time to learn and work and grow, they have begun to hear different answers when they ask themselves those difficult questions above.
As you read their stories, you will hear the voices of people struggling to regain their self-esteem and to earn the respect of their families and friends, their supervisors and coworkers. For many, the work they are doing is the first time they have ever felt a part of any community. That is our goal here at ACI, to put them on a path to be successful citizens.
I would like to personally thank the contributors to this page for sharing their stories with us here. We are grateful that they have found their voices and have taken control of the narrative of their lives. And we are proud to be able to share their stories with you here.
Brian Radecki, CEO
Arizona Correctional Industries
I want to start off by saying that I’m blessed to have a job where I can save money for my future. I enjoy working at United Fiber, I’m very thankful, and I show it by showing up every day and putting out 110%.
It’s not the cleanest place, but what can you expect working at a trash dump. The people are kind, and worthy of my respect. The money I make at United Fiber I’m able to save because I receive Secure – Packs monthly. The money that’s going into my retention will be added to my bank upon release.
I have been an inmate at Florence West for the past four years and I have one year remaining. Since working for United Fiber for the past six months, I have been able to re-polish and apply myself on working hard and acquiring good work ethics for when I get out next year. Being on the yard doesn’t compare to working and developing skills.
Working for ACI during my incarceration has been very beneficial. During this time I have learned how to better apply real-world skills, and to manage conflict resolution. ACI has given me a sense of freedom as well as an opportunity to gain social skills to re-enter society. I am away from the negative issues and environment. Finally, with receiving a steady paycheck I am able to enhance life skills such as keeping track of my inmate banking account.
The Success of ACI
I would like to shed some light on an ongoing problem we face in this state and many others. The recidivism rate of convicted felons returning to prison has remained around 76.6% within the first year of release. This is because a lot of ex-convicts get release with dormant skills, no money, and a dusty resume. Unfortunately, because of these obstacles, a lot of ex-cons fall back into their old habits, hence the 76.6% recidivism rate.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work for the Televerde organization through ACI during my time at Perryville. While, it may sound a bit extreme; I would say that it has changed my entire life.
Before Televerde I was quite broken, unsure of myself and unaware of what I could achieve and contribute. I had little to no hope of an alternate future… floating from one place to another at the mercy of circumstances. I was empty.
How Working for Televerde and the ACI program has changed my Life
First and foremost, I want to thank you all for the welcome that you have given me for short time with you. This is a smart shop and pretty impressive.
To begin my story, I come from a small town called Holbrook, AZ where there isn’t a Wal-Mart and we have only one grocery store to choose from. Most of the work that I have done comes from small “mom and pop’s” shop that only have one person that is in charge of it all.
I’ve worked four years for ACI at CME on Lewis Complex. Working for Swift has given me knowledge that will ensure my future with multiple job opportunities. I’ve learned the latest technology on semi’s. I’ve also programmed myself by getting up and putting in an honest day’s work, five days a week. All the while, building a retention fund that will allow me to buy tools and whatever else I will need to enter back into society and live an honest successful life. Programs like this can help inmates successfully transition into society.
I do feel that the ACI program should be expanded, because it will provide a better chance for people getting out of prison to start over. Many people, like me will have nothing when they get out. If I were to get out with only the $100.00 gate fee and had to find a place live, then find a job to pay for the place it would be very difficult.
If you took Stiner Unit for example; there is twelve hundred men housed with only six hundred jobs available. I feel more jobs would be beneficial.
I have been employed by ACI since January 6, 2016 at CME West Lewis Complex. With an ACI job I have learned a trade in the trucking repair industry. I also will be able to pay for an apartment and buy a vehicle with the retention funds I am earning. I think the ACI program opens doors for inmates returning to civilian life.
What Has ACI Done For Me?
I have been working for the Safety Services Company ACI for the past two years. ACI has allowed me to put money away in my retention for when I get released and will give me a great start at beginning my parole and to start my reintegration into society. I have also learned a trade that I am good at and can count on when I get out. I don’t have help of any kind and ACI has allowed me to live comfortable while incarcerated. Working everyday has also given me a great work ethic and gives me something to look forward to in the future.
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