When you walk into the Fleet Management Department at the Arizona Department of Corrections’ women’s prison in Perryville, you are greeted by a somewhat unusual sight. Working on the vehicles are women wearing prison uniforms.
These female inmates aren’t just assisting the full-time supervisors — they are performing diagnostics, updating work orders, and making repairs. The women, most of whom had no automotive experience before their incarceration, are learning the skills necessary to work as technicians under the ADC’s Fleet 100 program — a program created to help reduce the rate of recidivism in Arizona.
Recidivism — a person’s relapse into criminal behavior — occurs at staggering rates across Arizona and the entire United States.
According to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, each month about 1,600 inmates are released from state prison. Of that number, 39% are expected to return to prison for committing another crime.
These rates are even higher when you consider nationwide rates. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice:
- Within three years of release, more than 67% of released prisoners were re-arrested.
- Within five years of release, more than 75% of released prisoners were re-arrested.
To reduce the numbers nationally, the First Step Act was signed into law at the end of last year to grant more federal funding to attempt to lower the rate of re-arrests. This includes more money dedicated to helping prisoners pursue post-secondary education and more programs to provide occupational training. It also re-authorizes the Second Chance Act, which provides grants to help former inmates gain employment and offers benefits to employers who hire these individuals.
To curb this trend locally, the Arizona Department of Corrections’ Fleet Management Department created Fleet 100 to teach inmates the necessary skills needed to work as technicians after their release.
Fleet 100 Program
The Fleet 100 program aims to provide inmates with useful skills and training they can use after prison, while at the same time providing resources to the ADC’s understaffed fleet maintenance shops. Before the Fleet 100 program, the shops were struggling to keep up with a large workload. The Fleet Management Department was tasked with maintaining 2,455 vehicles and equipment between 13 repair facilities with limited full-time staff.
The ADC fleet operation previously had access to inmates to help with tasks in the shops, but they struggled with high turnover rates. As inmates were released or re-assigned to other jobs, the fleet department had to continuously teach new inmates the skills necessary to assist in the shop.
To combat this issue, Jeffery Dickman, equipment shop supervisor at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC) in Yuma, created the Fleet 100 program. Through this program, prison repair shops transformed into training facilities. Current, full-time technicians became trainers, assisting and educating inmates as they became the shop’s technicians, working in various positions that would exist in real shops.
In addition to teaching inmates skills, the Fleet Department took an extra step to help them secure post-release employment. Using their fleet management software system, the ADC tracks each inmate’s work orders and jobs performed. When the inmate is released, he or she will have a complete resume of the work completed in the shop.
To be considered for the program, inmates need to have at least three years left on their sentences. This allows the prisoners enough time to learn skills necessary for employment post-release and assures the fleet department it won’t have a revolving door of inmates to train.
After being rolled out in January, Fleet 100 has been an overall success. Richard Kauth, maintenance operations manager at ADC, said he hasn’t received any negative feedback, and the inmates appreciate the opportunity to learn a trade they can benefit from when looking for employment.
“They want to help themselves,” Kauth said. “We’ve taken it to a different level that wasn’t expected, and the results are showing.”
Second-Chance Employers Needed
The next step for the ADC’s Fleet 100 program is to partner with second-chance employers who can offer job placements to inmates after they are released from prison.
According to PrisonPolicy.org, formerly incarcerated men and women have an unemployment rate of about 27%. The website states this is “higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.”
The ADC Fleet Management Department is hoping its program will instill enough skills and on-the-job training to help its inmates find employment and not become another recidivism statistic.
Editor's Note: Mary Motzko is a marketing specialist for RTA Fleet Management. RTA is the fleet software provider for the Arizona Department of Corrections.