Jimmy Jenkins | KJZZ
Arizona Town Hall President Tara Jackson has organized community discussions all over the state. But Thursday was different.
“We’ve never done anything like this," Jackson said. "The Department of Corrections has never done anything like this.”
Participants gathered at the Eagle Point Second Chance Center, a lower security facility at the Arizona State Prison Complex – Lewis in Buckeye.
The day room was washed in light as men in immaculately white tennis shoes walked in to take their seats among ASU students, business leaders and reform advocates.
Tattooed arms reached out reluctantly from bright orange shirts to shake hands with fellow members of the community.
“When we took on this topic, it seemed to me that it was really important that we needed to have the voice of the inmates," Jackson said. "They’re the front lines. They can tell us what would really make a difference.”
Jackson prompted the group discussion with questions.
“What could be done and by whom," she asked, "to improve Arizona’s Criminal Justice system, prior to incarceration?”
No one here is shackled, there are guards present but everyone is at ease. This group of men are close to release. ADC Director Charles Ryan says most of them will be out in less than 60 days.
“They all have one thing in common," Ryan said. "They are considered high to moderate risk to recidivate.”
According to the Department of Corrections, 39 percent of people released from Arizona prisons will return within three years. Eagle Point is supposed to serve as a transitional stage where inmates can start to think about life outside, and prepare for the temptations that lie in wait.
Jeremy Schall runs substance abuse programs at the Center.
“I’m a recovery support specialist here and my obligation is to the guys going out,” he said.
Schall helps his fellow inmates get ready for release. He said the programming is a good start, but people struggling with drug addiction could benefit from a longer stay in the Second Chance Center.
“I believe, from what I understand and the research I’ve done, that it’s cheaper to treat us rather than just lock us away,” he said.
Original article at KJZZ: