Billed as the answer to Arizona businesses who are “Looking for employees who are ready to work?”, the state’s first Reentry Employer Forum took place Wednesday, June 20, 2018: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Beus Center for Law & Society Rm 141 (111 East Taylor Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004).
2018 Reentry Employer Forum ProgramCvr

Hosted by the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Correctional Industries and [email protected], the forum also had support from other agencies, private businesses and non-profits:

  • Alliance Truss
  • Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Arouet Foundation
  • LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Maximus
  • Phoenix Business Journal
  • Rescued Not Arrested
  • Rio Salado College
  • St. Joseph the Worker and their partner Dress for Success

With unemployment rates down, employers are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies. From construction and manufacturing to hospitality and professional services, organizations who are planning to hire in the coming months will find a dwindling pool of capable candidates.

In an effort to create safer communities by reducing re-offenses, and to offer former inmates a second chance, Governor Ducey tasked Arizona agencies to provide pre-release workforce services to prepare inmates for success and self-sufficiency. A variety of programs, including on-site prison Second Chance Centers, have been created to prepare inmates for Arizona´s workforce through comprehensive employment readiness services.

Arizona employers were invited to participate in Arizona´s first Reentry Employer Forum to learn the benefits and opportunities available through Arizona´s largest untapped workforce solutions: Returning Citizens.

More than 250 employers registered to learn how our state government is working to solve staffing shortages while reducing the rate that offenders return to prison. Turning offenders (who cost tax payers more than $ 24,000 a year) into tax payers also frees up valuable state resources for other important services (like our schools and infrastructure upgrades).

During the breakfast hour – before the formal presentations – and after the presentations, attendees were able to network with each other, the presenters and the sponsors who had tables set up at the front of the auditorium.

Reentry Employer Forum 2018 sponsors 05
Reentry Employer Forum 2018 sponsors 06
Reentry Employer Forum 2018 sponsors 04

The presentations began with welcome messages from the directors of the two hosting state agencies and opening remarks from the Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security and Public Safety Policy Advisor to Governor Doug Ducey.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan

  1. ADC Welcome Message

    We’re very proud of the service we’ve provided for the citizens of Arizona for the last 50 years and the tens of thousands of security and administrative personnel who have made it their lives’ work to keep our communities safe. Every week I seem to be presenting service pins to people who have been with the department for 20, or 30, or even 40 or more years. I don’t think you can find too many private companies that can boast of having that kind of employee loyalty.

    I am proud to have served alongside these dedicated, hardworking people, who have seen the nature of corrections change and evolve over the years, requiring them to continuously learn new policies and procedures.

    Just in the last few years, under Governor Ducey’s leadership, we’ve made a major shift in our approach to our mission. We’ve acknowledged that we need to do a better job of preparing the inmates and parolees in our charge for their eventual release back into society.

    We understand that our best shot of reducing the number of people in our state prisons is to stop the cycle of release and reoffending. Fortunately, here in Arizona our recidivism rate of around 40% is substantially lower than the national average closer to 60%, but that’s not good enough. We are working toward reducing it to 30% in the next ten years.

    As you’ll learn today, we’ve already made a great start by making dramatic changes in the culture within the department and by working more closely with our community partners. We’ve been fortunate to have very helpful partners from the public and private sector to work with us as we embark on this new chapter in the department’s history. Partners like the sponsors here, from the for-profit and non-profit sectors, and our friends at the Department of Economic Security.

    But the partners we need the most are you: Arizona employers. Your willingness to recognize the skills and potential of offenders and give them a chance to be a part of your team, will make all the difference in their lives.
    Thank you for being here today!

Department of Economic Security Director Michael Trailor

Department of Economic Security Director Michael Trailor

  1. DES Welcome Message

    Good morning and welcome to the first-ever Reentry Employer Forum. Thousands of former inmates return to our communities each year and most encounter significant barriers to successful reentry. Led by Governor Ducey’s initiative to reduce recidivism and provide formerly incarcerated individuals a real second chance through employment opportunities, the Arizona Department of Economic Security and the Arizona Department of Corrections are working together to provide opportunities in Second Chance Centers located in state prison facilities, parole offices and reentry centers.

    More than a thousand inmates have completed the ten week course, resulting in over 600 job placements upon release; saving lives and reducing the cost of prison to tax payers.

    The response to this program has been phenomenal! From participants to employers to community partners, the program is starting to make a significant difference.

    By reaching out to returning citizens and providing the skills and resources to succeed in attaining employment, we’re opening up new channels of communication with those who truly desire a new start, a second chance in life and hope for the future.
    DES aims to eliminate barriers to employment and improve returning citizens’ chances for success by providing access to healthcare, nutritional benefits through the supplemental nutrition assistance program and connecting individuals to gainful employment through local employers.

    Last December, DES, the Department of Corrections and AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) were presented with a good government award by Governor Ducey for collaborative efforts to offer inmates medical assistance upon release. We currently offer nutrition assistance upon release to inmates in three Arizona prisons and are preparing to expand this option state wide in the coming months.

    The level of teamwork and cooperation exhibited between state agencies and employers like yourselves represents the commitment the state has for our residents.

    Today you’ll learn more about how your company can add returning citizens to the Arizona workforce. DES will continue to work with our partners to expand the program throughout state prison facilities, parole offices and reentry centers to increase the likelihood of successful and sustainable employment.

    We look forward to working with you to make the American Dream a reality for those embarking on a new journey in their life. Thank you very much.

Tim Roemer

Tim Roemer, Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security and Public Safety Policy Advisor to the Governor

  1. Governor’s Office Opening Remarks

    Thank you so much for having me here today to speak on behalf of Governor Ducey on our efforts to provide a real second chance to those who have already paid their debt to society and served their time behind bars.

    I’d first like to thank directors Ryan and Trailor for their hard work implementing and helping to lead these important efforts that will not only make our communities safer, get a better deal for our tax payers, but it’s also the right thing to do.

    Recently the governor toured the Second Chance Center at the Lewis Prison Complex in Buckeye and it was an amazing tour with both of the directors who just gave opening comments. The governor was so impressed that, as he was walking out, he said to us, “this is great work, but let’s make sure that it’s only just the beginning.”

    That’s exactly why so many of us are here in this room today. Because we’ve had a great start to these wonderful efforts that can and will truly make a difference. But we also have to keep in mind that this is just the beginning. We are just starting to see the successes of these programs and it continues to motivate us and encourage us to do more. And that’s why we are so appreciative of everyone that’s in this room to help us in these efforts.

    We simply can’t do it alone. The governor can’t do it alone. The Department of Corrections can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork and in order to make corrections truly become corrections we need that type of teamwork. We need these employers to come to table and work with us to provide these real second chances because it is truly a win-win for everyone.
    We’re so fortunate to live in a great state with a thriving economy with these job openings. But we have this huge, untapped workforce coming out of the prison system that deserve these opportunities, that will work hard and will do a great job and will truly become a success for all of us.

    Some of the things we have done in the State of Arizona: We modeled the Pima Reentry Center concept and created the Maricopa Reentry Center, which we’re thrilled to have. The reason why reentry centers are so important is that it gives the Department of Corrections and the State of Arizona another option. Instead of violating somebody who’s struggling and sending them back to prison, they can go to the reentry center, get the treatment and resources they need to get back onto their feet, become successful and become a contributing member of society.

    We’ve also created the Second Chance Centers at three of our prison complexes. I can’t tell you how great it is to tour these facilities on a regular basis with the staffs that help run them and talk directly with the inmates. It is so motivating to see types of changes that are being made. So many individuals who have said, “this is my second, third, fourth time in the prison system and this is the first time that I’ve got everything I need to be successful when I’m released.”

    Getting them the resources and opportunities they need prior to release will help them become more successful. Whether it’s a driver’s license, a job, or a resume… any number of things that we’re arming them with so that they can be successful is really making a difference. The post release fire crew as well. The governor has met with a former inmate who is serving on this post release fire crew, fighting wild fires in Arizona which is such a huge threat to our state, and he told the governor that when he was in prison he felt like a zero, he didn’t have anything. But when he joined this fire crew, now he goes to fight these wild fires throughout the state and he sees the way he’s treated by all the locals and all the people from the community and he said, “now I feel like a hero!”

    These are the types of impacts that all of us in this room can make. We can help these individuals go from feeling like a zero to feeling like a hero.

    We’ve added additional substance abuse counselors, we know that we unfortunately have a drug problem that the entire country does. We are investing in the treatment needed for these individuals behind bars to help them get off that dependency to the substances that they’re addicted to.

    And I’m proud to say that the governor helped lead the way by signing an executive order called the “Real Second Chance Box” that gives individuals the chance they need, the fairness to get a job, not have to check the box of whether or not you’ve been convicted of a felony first in the process, but rather later in the process after they’ve had a chance to interview for a job and to prove to the employer that they are the right person for that job. Because sadly, too many times, people with a criminal history weren’t getting a fair chance. If you checked that box that you’ve been convicted of a felony, too many employers were saying, “no we’re going to go with somebody else,” instead of giving you the shot to at least interview.
    By moving that box to the end of the process, it helps give them a fair chance for that job. It’s actually good for the employer because they could end up getting a better, more qualified person because of this. Now the governor wasn’t going to tell the private sector what to do, but, I’m happy to report that many private sector companies in Arizona and around the country are following this type of lead, including Maricopa County that passed this same policy for all jobs in Maricopa County so now we have this policy for all state jobs in Maricopa County and others as well.

    I’d like to close with what an honor it truly is to serve in this capacity. When I originally came on to serve as the Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security and then on as his Public Safety Policy Advisor, there were a lot of issues that I was excited to work on. But I didn’t truly understand how much this issue was going to make an impact on me until I really started to tour the prisons with Director Ryan and work with a lot of great people in this room which I’m so thankful for because, looking around the room, I recognize so many people that I work really closely with. The reason why it’s such an honor to work on this specific issue of reducing recidivism is that it tackles so many of the issues that we’re faced with in our society. It really, absolutely can make our community stronger and safer by helping these individuals get back on their feet. Because that leads to less crime and less drug addiction in our society. And as the Governor’s Public Safety Policy Advisor that’s a huge win.

    But you also look at it from the totality of the circumstance, that we know it’s expensive to incarcerate these individuals, but if we can save that money and put it back into other resources, that’s a better deal for the tax payers as well. And I always like to close with the fact (and I know I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again) It’s the right thing to do for the individuals who have already paid their debt to society and served their time behind bars.

    So thank you for being part of this. We’re really excited to work with all of you.

The next few presentations displayed, “various programs that employ, educate and empower incarcerated individuals to get a job upon release, which drastically reduces the likelihood that they will end up back in the prison system,” according to Chamber Business News contributor Ava Montoya.

Brian Radecki, CEO of Arizona Correctional Industries

Brian Radecki, CEO of Arizona Correctional Industries, showed the importance of providing real world, jobs to inmates

Mark Jones, Education Administrator for ADC

Mark Jones, Education Administrator for ADC, discussed how the department works with community colleges and local employers to develop curriculum

Trevor Stokes, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity Workforce Program Manager

Trevor Stokes, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity Workforce Program Manager spoke about the new Arizona Career Readiness Credential

2018 Reentry Employers Forum attendees

Hundreds of employers learned about the many programs and initiatives that they can participate in to solve their staffing needs

ADC Inmate Programs and Reentry Division Director Karen Hellman

Karen Hellman, Inmate Programs and Reentry Division Director at ADC, reminded the audience that 95% of the 45,000 people currently in the state prison system will be getting out at some point, “they will be our neighbors, they will be our friends..” She then presented a video about the Second Chance Centers.

Assistant Director of the DES Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services, Michael Wisehart

Michael Wisehart, Assistant Director of the DES Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services, spoke about the many incentives available to employers who are willing to work with former inmates.

Employer Panel

2018 Reentry Employer Forum

Next up was a a stellar panel of employers who have been working with this population for a while ─ a couple for more than 20 years! Each panelist briefly related their experience working with ex-offenders.
From left: Aaron Cheathem, Reentry and Transition Manager at Hickman’s Family Farms; Connie Wilhelm, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona; Monica Marquez, Human Resources Manager at American West Pallets; Jay Bouche, Director of Marketing for Trapp Technology; Michelle Cirocco, Head of Global Marketing for Televerde

2018 Reentry Employer Forum questions to employer panelists

Employers in attendance asked panelists pointed questions

2018 Reentry Employer Forum attenees questioned employer panelists

Panelists were questioned about the work ethic of ex-felons they work with

2018 Reentry Employers Forum was well received by attendees

Attendees responded enthusiastically to the panelist’s stories and answers to questions

Dr. Kevin Wright

Dr. Kevin Wright, from ASU’s Director of the Center for Correctional Solutions and Associate Professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Dr. Kevin Wright

Dr. Wright taught the first Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program class in Arizona and is a co-founder of the Arizona Transformation Project. One important insight of his presentation was for employers: “it’s important to think about providing a Second Chance to mean that you’re providing an opportunity!”

2018 Reentry Employers Forum overview

Attendees learned about the state’s efforts to reduce recidivism and provide a qualified workforce

Returning Citizen Panel

2018 Reentry Employers Forum ex-offender panel

Each member of the diverse panel of ex-offenders courageously told the story of their personal journey through the criminal justice system and out into successful, fulfilling careers.
From left: Korbi Johnston, former inmate who worked with the ACI program inside and currently works as a Strategic Account Manager for Televerde; Justin Benjamin, a Project Support Specialist at ADC’s Maricopa Reentry Center; Toni Guana, Director of Operations for Perfection Industrial Finishing; Stephanie Ray, former inmate clerk at ACI’s Central Office and currently an Assistant Economic Workforce Development Director for [email protected] in Navajo County; and at the podium, the event Emcee, Jim Sorensen, UI Manager at the Arizona Department of Economic Security

Matthew Contorelli

Closing remarks were given by Matthew Contorelli, Director of Government & Legislative Affairs at the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA)

After the presentations were concluded, attendees came down to meet one-on-one with the presenters and get information from the sponsors.

The presenters each received hand-crafted gifts made by inmates participating in arts classes at the Arizona State Prison Complex – Perryville.

Each attendee received an attendee bag provided by the Arouet Foundation that included information and gifts from the sponsors, including a free copy of the latest edition of the Phoenix Business Journal along with a discounted subscription offer.

To learn more about the programs discussed and the organizations behind them, please click on the host and sponsor logos below.

2018 Reentry Employer Forum, Alliance sponsor table
2018 Reentry Employer Forum, Maximus sponsor table
2018 Reentry Employer Forum, St Joseph the Worker sponsor table

Presented by:

Arizona Correctional Industires

AZ Department of Economic Security
Arizona at Work

Arizona Department of Corrections


Arouet Foundation

St Joseph the Worker

LISC Phoenix

Phoenix Business Journal

Rescued Not Arrested

Arizona Commerce Authority


Rio Salado College