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Job Court - Smart Justice

Except for the most serious offenses, most people sentenced to jail will be released to the community, so it is important that we have a plan to get people on the right track.

Studies show that work reduces repeat offenses.

The Superior Court handles all felony criminal cases, including sentencing and probation/parole supervision.  Except for the most serious offenses, most people who are convicted and sentenced to jail will get out of jail and return to the community eventually.

Probation and parole usually consists of telling defendants not to do things, such as:

• Don’t use alcohol
• Don’t use drugs
• Don’t commit new crimes
• Don’t possess weapons
• Don’t leave the state

For many, probation ends up being a big game of “gotcha!” where the probation department spends their time trying to catch the probationer doing one of the things that they aren’t supposed to be doing, with the threat of jail if they don’t comply.

The problem with the model of simply telling defendants on probation “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” is that most people can avoid doing those things for some period of time in order to avoid going back to jail. However, long-term, without helping probationers find something productive to do, they are likely to return to court as a repeat-offender and often escalate in the seriousness of their offenses. We’re not returning people to the community any better than they started out.

I will create a program I call “Job Court” that will be designed to help unemployed probationers and parolees get to work and keep them employed on a long-term basis. People who are employed are far less likely to continue committing crimes. Instead of merely playing the “gotcha!” game with probationers/parolees, their period of probation/parole would be utilized to ensure that they learn the skills to become employed and the services will be directed toward making them good long-term employees who will remain employed and productive citizens.

The program would require probationers/parolees to be counseled about job training, interviewing skills, appropriate grooming and clothing for interviews, and how to be a good employee. Once employed, probationers/parolees would be required to participate in job coaching designed to make them good employees and keep them employed even after their probation/parole has concluded.

It costs about $5,000 to place and retain an ex-offender in a job.  It costs the State of Arizona more than $25,962 annually to keep one person in prison for a year.1  The cost savings is immense and should not be lost on legislators interested in reducing budgets. 

I won’t ask Cochise County to provide any funds to pay for Job Court. I will seek grant funding and community partners to fund the program, bringing additional money into Cochise County to better our community.

Smart Justice policies like Job Court will have a real impact on Cochise County and its citizens, reducing repeat offenders, redirecting defendants to productive activities before they commit a more serious crime, and making our community a safer place to live.

Notes:

See Manhattan Institute Study re: Work and Recidivism.2

 




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