Pima County program aims to help inmates find jobs after being released

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) Before Silvia joined the LEAP Program, she didn't know much about building a resume.

But as soon as Silvia is released from jail she says she'll be ready to put her resume to work. 

"The cover letter gave me the opportunity to explain to them that it was in a bad time in my life," she said.

Silvia is serving time at the Pima County Minimum Security Facility for a drug-related charge. She's one of 37 inmates who have completed the LEAP program since April.

LEAP stands for Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release. Program coordinator Joaquin Murrieta says 100 inmates have participated in the program so far. The LEAP program is funded through a $492,441 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Participants in the LEAP program learn skills to get them back in the workforce including resume writing tips, advice on how to maintain a job and how talk to potential employers.

"We have the strong belief that we'll reduce recidivism if someone is actively employed once they get released," Murrieta said. 

The LEAP office is located inside the Minimum Security Facility on Mission Road near the Pima County Adult Detention Complex.

Jail officials say only sentenced inmates are held at the Minimum Security Facility. There are about 150 inmates there serving less than one year. There are 1,850 at the other county detention center.

Sentenced inmates within 180 days of release are eligible for the LEAP program. Most often Murrieta says he works with inmates with drug-related offenses or DUI's. 

Some of them have never had experience creating a resume, Murrieta said, and it can be a confidence boost.

"When we tell them how to work on a resume and what to put down they are really amazed and happy because they can see what they've done in their lives on paper," Murrieta said.

While there may be some inmates who haven't worked in years, Murrieta says most people have some kind of work experience or skills.

"Organizing. If they organized their closet, they have experience organizing," Murrieta said. "If they clean their yard, they may have a little bit of experience landscaping that they could get into a entry-level landscape position."

Murrieta says he knows of 10 LEAP participants that are now working full-time.

Finding a job can be a challenge, Murrieta said, but the inmates are eager and motivated to prove themselves in the workforce.     

"Unfortunately there is the stigma that if somebody is a felon they don't want to deal with them," Murrieta said. "But there is also the movement of second chance that a lot of employers are coming on board. To give individuals a second chance to be able to obtain employment."

There is a Re-Entry Job & Resource Fair scheduled for September 27th at the Tucson Convention Center. 

Here is a link with more information.

Once inmates are released they can get through the Sullivan Jackson Employment Center for help in finding housing. 

The grant will run through September 2018 then organizers will explore other funding options.

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