Max Darrow | KGUN 9 ABC Tucson
BUCKEYE, Ariz. (KGUN-TV) - Prisoners at three state prisons are getting a chance to find a career from behind bars so that they're employed once they are released from incarceration. Gov. Doug Ducey officially unveiled the new program at the Lewis Prison Complex, in an effort to reduce recidivism.
"It's about taking our next step to fulfill our mission of making corrections truly become corrections," he said.
The program put on by the Department of Corrections and Department of Economic Security currently exists at the Perryville, Tucson, and Lewis complexes. It's an eight-week program that's designed to teach inmates about professional skills -- such as creating a resume and how to interview -- to hands-on job training so they are prepared to work the day they're hired.
Gov. Ducey believes this will help inmates better transition from life behind bars to the outside world, therefore making communities safer and reducing recidivism.
"We'd rather provide an opportunity for them," Ducey said. "They've paid their debt to society, they've served their time, and often times they re-offend because they don't have any opportunity in front of them."
One of the inmates currently enrolled in the program is Plez Taylor, 26. He's on his last legs of a seven year prison sentence for assault. He's set to be released in September, and with the help of this program, he'll likely be employed once he walks out.
"It gives me a better chance not to violate or not to mess up, to come back," he said. "If I've got my head on doing the right thing, then I can't do the wrong thing."
As the governor toured the facility at the Lewis Prison Complex, a career fair was underway, where prisoners were interviewing for jobs. There were a variety of companies there, from construction and electric industries to hospitality and service industries. Among those companies was Hickman's Family Farms.
"Here at Hickman's Family Farms, we believe in giving people second chances," Elizabeth Carlisle said.
She and Anthony Castorina were present, speaking with inmates throughout the afternoon. They explained the company has a variety of positions to fill, and in most cases they're willing to give the inmates a chance.
"There are going to be some deal breakers, and that does happen from time to time," Castorina said. "But I would say that the majority of the time that people come to us and demonstrate a willingness to learn, to work hard and be a part of our team, we're going to do everything we can do to make sure we put them to work."
It's that attitude that has inmate Thomas Regalado feeling more confident about life after his release. He's no stranger to the prison system either, but his attitude now is more positive about everything.
"I would get out and be on the streets, don't know nobody, don't know where the jobs are or who's hiring and who's not," he said. "And it gets frustrating because you put in application after application, no we're not hiring felons."
He's spent 26 years in prison in seven different stints for crimes stemming from his drug addiction. Regalado says it's a hard cycle to break, because the two worlds are so different. In prison, life is regimented and controlled; but out of prison, people have the freedom to choose what they want to do, which can be very overwhelming when it happens in such a short time, according to Regalado.
However, he doesn't think that'll be the case this time around once he's released in September. By having a job, he feels he'll be busy spending his time being a productive member of society.
"I won't have time to be running the streets," he said. "Or going from friends house to friends house getting drunk or high or whatever the case may be."
As for Taylor, he's ready to rekindle his relationships with his family.
"I'm trying to take advantage of it in every way I can," he said.
And despite nearly a decade locked away, he thinks he'll be able to do it well, thanks to the help and guidance of this program.
"You can't take care of someone else if you can't take care of yourself. You know what I'm saying?" Taylor said. "Just to have a leg up. Period. To put myself in a better situation to put my family or anyone I need to help in a better situation."
Some of the inmate I spoke with, and the officials, say they look forward to expanding this program to more of the state prisons.
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