‘Clean Start’ program provides inmates a pathway to employment

This piece was produced in partnership with Arizona PBS.

Maricopa County’s justice system is trying something new to cut down on recidivism and help convicted criminals re-enter society.

The Clean Start is a program for women that allows 30 inmates to work at the county jail laundry facility. In addition to learning how to work in a professional environment, program participants are taught how to conduct themselves in job interviews, how to write resumes and other job skills.

Jeannie Reardon, program administrator for Arizona@Work, says it’s crucial to reach out to these women because of the difficulties they face in obtaining jobs once they are released. “We purposely target people that have barriers to employment,” said Reardon, “these are women who have shown a desire to work but they are faced with multiple barriers.”

Elizabeth Willyerd has been in and out of jail since she was 18. Now at age 30, she realized she needed to make a change and Clean Start is helping her.

“When I am folding laundry, I do think about next steps of what I am going to do next and really how I can better myself in any kind of way,” said Willyard. “I think about my kids what I can get them when I can afford it.”

Clean Start also helps graduates of the program find jobs at hotels and call centers in Phoenix.