County Work Program Aims to Reduce Recidivism

Maricopa County, Ariz., launched the "Clean Starts" county work program to help former inmates support themselves without returning to crime.

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZ. -- The Maricopa County Adult Probation Department was supervising more than 25,000 people in March. Of about 5,000 women on probation, nearly 2,000 were unemployed. A county work program is helping to give these unemployed former inmates a chance to get back in the workforce while reducing long-term county costs.

Clean Starts is a paid work program that teaches occupational skills. Through the program, the probation department recommends low-level offenders to work for 40 hours per week in the jail laundry facility.

"Participants working at the laundry operation gain transferable skills, such as appearing for work on time, time management and getting along with co-workers. They also learn how to operate industrial equipment and utilize shipping and inventory systems," said Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

In a recent piece for the Glendale Star, he talked about how difficult it is for former inmates to find a job and stay away from crime. He said he knows first hand that community employment programs work to reduce recidivism.

We have nearly 300 inmate workers at any one time, and some of our full-time employee supervisors started as inmates with our company years ago," Hickman said of his 20-year old family business.

Municipal agencies including law enforcement, correctional health and judicial branch entities like adult probation must collaborate. By leveraging each departments skills and resources, municipalities can find ways to reduce jail bookings. According to Hickman, Maricopa County is averaging about 100,000 bookings per year, which is accounting for more than half of its public safety and criminal justice budget.

Clean Starts is a 13-week program directed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in partnership with its Human Services Department. That agency provides former inmates in Clean Starts with career guidance, including resume assistance and interview skills training. Human Services also connects members of the work program with potential future employers. After they finish Clean Starts, former inmates can continue receiving employment-related services.

The first graduates of Clean Starts completed the program on June 2.

Read Hickman's original story on the Glendale Star website.

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