Do you ever wish you had a second chance? A do over? An opportunity to succeed because you know now, what you didn’t know then? Thankfully, most of us will never know what it feels like to need a real second chance, as we will never check the days off, awaiting a release from prison. But, if we were in that spot, would we be excited for that second chance, or would we be worried?
Many incarcerated individuals are worried as they move toward their release date. What will they do? How will they ever get a job with a felony record? Where will they live? Who would ever rent to them, even if they had the money to pay? These are real worries for thousands of individuals leaving our prison system every year. Some of them simply do not have the skills to succeed, so amid the lack of employment and housing, they return to old ways and end up right back in prison.
Under Governor Ducey’s administration, the Arizona Department of Corrections has been working with other state agencies to find ways to give inmates exiting our state prisons the tools they need to succeed on the outside, such as job and life skills training. The Arizona Department of Housing has been one of those agencies looking to find ways to help Arizona’s inmates to succeed upon their release.
Roughly, only about 10 percent of inmates exiting the state prison system will return to live with family upon release. Too many have worn out their welcome, or have no family, and have no home to return to after release. So where does that leave the other 90 percent? The majority will end up in halfway houses, where they can pay week to week. Some may end up homeless. Even if they have secured employment, the majority of inmates will struggle to get themselves housed and stay housed.
To counter some of those issues, the Arizona Department of Housing began rolling out a pilot program at the Lewis Prison’s Second Chance Center this past December with a Second Chance Rental Training program. This extensive training is focused on providing inmates with knowledge to aid them in securing and keeping themselves housed post-release. For more details on this training, see our featured story on Second Chance Rental Training.
Housing is a market-driven industry, as it should be. You will hear me say this repeatedly, so here it comes again . . . government cannot fix or address every situation, nor should it try. Yet, when government can work as a partner with others to find solutions to impediments, we should strive to do what we can. We are all better off as a society when people are adequately housed.
As always, we are working hard on the State level to address some of the state’s most difficult housing issues. If you are reading this message, chances are you are working alongside of us and for that we are grateful.
Carol Ditmore, Director