According to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, each month about 1,600 inmates are released from Arizona prisons. Of that number, about 39 percent are expected to return to prison for committing another crime.
Nationally, rates of recidivism (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior) are even more staggering. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice:
- Within three years of release, more than 67 percent of released prisoners were rearrested
- Within five years of release, more than 75 percent of released prisoners were rearrested
To curb this, the Arizona Department of Corrections created a challenge to reduce recidivism by 25 percent over the next 10 years.
The fleet management department took on this challenge and created Fleet 100 – a program that would both help provide inmates with useful skills and training they can use once released from prison and would also help the understaffed shops add to their workforce to keep up with large workload.
ADC Fleet Management Department Needed More Trained Technicians
The ADC fleet management department has about 2,455 vehicles and equipment to maintain between 13 repair facilities. With a limited full-time staff (10 Equipment Repair Technicians, three lead Equipment Repair Technicians and 10 Equipment Shop Supervisors), the department struggled to keep all of the ADC assets up and running. It determined the ratio of technicians to equipment was 1:189, which left them about 13 technicians short of what they estimated they needed to properly service the assets.
While the fleet department could use inmates to help with routine tasks, the operation found the inmates didn’t have experience in fleet maintenance and could at best assist the full-time, certified technicians. The shop also struggled with high rates of turnover as inmates were reassigned to other departments or completed their sentences. This made it difficult to develop the inmates’ skills.
Enter Fleet 100.
Fleet 100 Offered Inmates Training, Real-World Experience
To help the fleet management department both decrease the technician-to-asset ratio and help inmates develop skills that will benefit them outside of prison, Jeffery Dickman, the Equipment Shop Supervisor at ASPC-Yuma, created the Fleet 100 program.
To ensure all vehicles at ASPC-Yuma were maintained at a 100-percent level of operational readiness, Dickman started getting inmates more involved with the repair process. Instead of having them assist the technicians, the inmates began getting Work Orders assigned to them through RTA Fleet Management Software’s solution.
After noticing the inmates didn’t have the experience or skills to help them work in a shop outside of prison, the prison repair shops were transformed into training facilities. The inmates worked in various positions that would exist at a real shop, learning skills that would benefit them outside of prison. By doing this, the technicians became the trainers -- there to assist and educate -- and the inmates worked as technicians.
This increased the size of the maintenance staff at Yuma. The program enabled more work to get done, and provided inmates with hands-on, real-world experience and training that could help them obtain a job and reduce the likelihood of them returning to prison.
After the success at Yuma, Fleet 100 was rolled out to the other ADC fleet management departments. The department sought out inmates who had at least three years left of their sentence to take part in the training program. This ensured the inmates had enough time to learn skills and gave the fleet department assurance that they wouldn’t have a revolving door of inmates that they would need to constantly train.
To assist inmates in finding work after prison, the Fleet 100 program included using RTA’s Paperless Shop program to record which Work Orders and repairs inmates completed. Each inmate is set up as an employee, and he or she logs onto a thin client that -- for safety and security reasons -- only has access to RTA’s Paperless Shop and Paperless Inspection tools. The department runs weekly and monthly productivity reports through RTA on each inmate to track their Work Orders.
Inmates can then take these reports and use them as part of a resume when they leave prison and are looking for employment.
“When I first heard of the Fleet 100 program, I was emotionally moved by what they were trying to do for these men and women,” said Josh Turley, CEO of RTA Fleet Management Software. “Finding employment is one of the biggest challenges they face while trying to avoid the behaviors that landed them in jail the first time around. Once they’ve served their time, they end up continuing to pay a debt to society above and beyond what was required of them, and it simply creates a cycle that is difficult to break. Fleet 100 is such a wonderful first step to helping give them a fighting chance.”
After being rolled out in January 2019, 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 skills and a trade they can benefit from when looking for employment.
“They want to help themselves,” Kauth said.
Next Step – Post-Prison Employment
Fleet 100 has seen multiple benefits in its initial rollout. The fleet management department is saving money by using inmates for additional tasks, and more service requests are being completed. The inmates are benefiting from not only learning a new trade, but they are also developing teamwork skills as they work with people of different racial and cultural backgrounds.
“We’ve taken it to a different level that wasn’t expected, and the results are showing,” Kauth said.
The next goal of Fleet 100 is to partner with second-chance employers who can offer job placements for inmates after they are released. According to PrisonPolicy.org, formerly incarcerated men and women have an unemployment rate of about 27 percent. According to the website, 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 the combination of providing real on-the-job training and finding second-chance employers will help their inmates find stable work – and remain out of prison long-term.
RTA is hoping its software and network of clients can help them accomplish this.
“After listening to Rick and his team at AzDOC, I know that RTA can help create the network these men and women need in order to find those second chance employers, who are willing to help ease their transition into their new lives. What’s more is that they are extremely motivated because they know if they go back, this program will no longer be available to them,” Turley said.
“My hope and desire is that fleets around the country will join us in making a positive impact in the lives of these former inmates, particularly when experienced and motivated technicians are difficult to find.”