Second chances

Pima Community College was the site last week of an important conference about a workforce development topic that often is overlooked and misunderstood: employing people who are re-entering society after serving time in prison or jail.

Some 300 people took part in “Second Chance,” a community conference held Sept. 27 at PCC’s West Campus. The Primavera Foundation, Community Partnership of Southern Arizona and the Pima County Attorney’s Office collaborated with the office of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and a wide variety of community groups to bring together employers, resources and those who are re-entering society.

Throughout the conference, speakers touched on the correlation between educational achievement and successfully transitioning out of the criminal justice system. Lack of education was noted as one of the prime risk factors for recidivism. The conference heard about the importance of helping former offenders with soft skills such as résumé writing. Keynote speaker Diane Williams of the Safer Foundation highlighted a promising partnership between community colleges and the Illinois corrections system in which students are trained in computer machine technology. Nine of the 15 students in the program were offered high-paying employment before they completed their studies.

As often is true, the personal success stories of Tucsonans provided some of the most memorable moments of the conference. You can hear two of those stories in this compelling video.

PCC has long recognized the connection between education and a stable, prosperous society. For more than 20 years, PCC has provided educational opportunities for inmates in state and federal prisons in the Tucson area.

At Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson, we offer five occupational majors – Automotive, Construction, Computer Applications, HVAC/Air Conditioning and Solar Panel Installation. Our current enrollment is about 340. Each year, about 150 students complete our programs.

Over the past three years, we provided General Education courses, and several inmates received associate’s degrees. Unfortunately, U.S. Department of Education eliminated funding for this project.

The College will be meeting with state prison officials to explore new education options for those about to exit the prison system. PCC and its community partners understand the importance of second chances, and helping our neighbors move forward with their lives.

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